Black rail

The black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis) is a mouse-sized member of the bird family Rallidae.

Black rail
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Laterallus
L. jamaicensis
Binomial name
Laterallus jamaicensis
Gmelin, 1789


This bird has sometimes been considered conspecific with the Peruvian Junín crake (L. tuerosi) and the Galapagos crake (L. spilonotus).


It will often make its presence known with its distinctive ki-ki-krr call or an aggressive, presumably territorial, growl. This is primarily uttered during the night, when these birds are most vocal.[2]

Distribution and habitat

It is found in scattered parts of North America and the Pacific region of South America, usually in coastal salt marshes but also in some freshwater marshes. It is extinct or threatened in many locations due to habitat loss. The largest populations in North America are in Florida and California.

Behaviour and ecology

The black rail is rarely seen and prefers running in the cover of the dense marsh vegetation to flying.


This rail is territorial during the breeding season, and occasionally males will mate with two or more females.[2]

The nests of this bird are placed on the ground, in dense, swampy vegetation or in patches of flooded grass. The nests are bowl-shaped and built with vegetation loosely woven.[2]

The clutch of this bird usually consists of six to eight creamy white speckled, with reddish-brown spots, eggs. These eggs are roundish and measure around 23 by 17 millimetres (0.91 by 0.67 in). They are incubated by both parents, taking shifts of approximately one hour each, for 16 to 20 days. The precocial young then hatch.


They are preyed upon by many avian (including hawks, egrets, and herons) and mammalian (including foxes and cats) predators and rely on the cover of thick marsh vegetation for protection. High tides are dangerous time for black rails as they are quite vulnerable to predation outside the marsh.


  1. BirdLife International (2019). "Laterallus jamaicensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2019.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  2. Hauber, Mark E. (1 August 2014). The Book of Eggs: A Life-Size Guide to the Eggs of Six Hundred of the World's Bird Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-226-05781-1.
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