Texas likely contains the largest concentration of Eastern Black Rails in the U.S. and is an important stronghold for the species, especially along the Gulf of Mexico. With continuing threats from habitat loss and sea level rise, conservation and on-the-ground management of the species is critical for Black Rails to have a future in Texas. Dr. Green will fill us in on all the research that graduate students in his lab have been doing on this species.
The Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis) is a small (6”)and secretive marsh bird that inhabits coastal high marshes and freshwater wetlands throughout the Americas. In Texas, winter migrant and breeding populations of the Eastern Black Rail (L. j. jamaicensis) are known to occur in disjunct wetlands along the Gulf Coast. This subspecies has been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing as “threatened”under the Endangered Species Act. Black Rail distribution and life history are poorly known in Texas. Dr. Green’s lab has been researching Black Rails in coastal Texas since 2014, studying survey methodolo- gy, occurrence and distribution, spatial ecology and the habitat requirements of Black Rails in marshes along the middle and upper Texas coast. Several years of surveys were conducted to initially gain an understand- ing of Black Rail distribution and abundance. That research was followed by in-depth studies of the breeding ecology and habitat use of Black Rails, as well as a study of Yellow Rail and Black Rail wintering distributions at San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.