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Rare bird sighting – Black Rail – Capon Springs, WV, USA.


The Black Rail is a first for West Virginia and was still there at 10:30 AM, May 30th 2012.

Black Rail

The Black Rail - Laterallus jamaicensis - is a mouse-sized bird and a member of the Rallidae family. It is the smallest rail in North America and is perhaps the most secretive too. They are found in scattered parts of North America and the Pacific region of South America.


A small rail, which is stocky, short-billed, short-tailed, and round-winged. Adults are blackish above with white speckling and a chestnut nape. Underparts are grayish-black with narrow white barring on the flanks. They have a black bill and red eyes. Males and females are very similar in coloration and size, except that females have a lighter-colored throat. Immature’s are similar to the adult, but duller and with less distinct spotting and streaking.


They have a distinctive "kick-ee-doo" call or an aggressive, presumably territorial, growl. The "kick-ee-doo" call is heard primarily at night.


Feed primarily on small invertebrates but also on seeds of some marsh plants.


Nests in high portions of salt marshes, shallow freshwater marshes, wet meadows, and flooded grassy vegetation. Peak nesting occurs from June to mid-July. A clutch of 6 to 10 creamy white eggs with fine brown spots are laid. They are incubated for 16 to 20 days by both parents. The chicks are covered with black down and leave the nest within one day. They are fed by both parents.

Conservation Status – Near threatened.

They are not federally listed as endangered or threatened despite its extremely low population levels that appear to be declining dramatically. It is extinct or threatened in many locations due to habitat loss. Considered Endangered in Arizona and threatened in California.

Bird Watching

The largest populations in North America are in Florida and California, in coastal salt marshes but also in some freshwater marshes.

Ask Aves Birding Tours to create a customized tour for you to see these secretive rails.


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