Written by Michael Wilson
March 9, 2010
The black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis) may be the most endangered bird along the Atlantic Coast. Populations have been declining along the Atlantic coast for over for over a century, but reductions during the last 10-15 years appear to be more rapid and devastating. Recent evidence suggests that black rails may only breed in a dozen or fewer places in each state along the Atlantic Ocean. Although population changes over this period appear to be pervasive, they are particularly pronounced throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Over the past 10-20 years, populations of black rail in Virginia and Maryland have declined more than 75% and have become dangerously low. There has been a reduction in both the number of breeding locations and a loss of individuals from historical strongholds. The reasons for the dramatic decline of the black rail are not completely understood, but may be attributed to factors such as habitat loss and degradation, predation, low reproductive rates, overwinter survival, and environmental contaminants.