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Black Rail Laterallus jamaicensis
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This poorly known species is believed to be declining at a moderately rapid rate and consequently it is classified as Near Threatened (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Fjeldså, J. 1983. A Black Rail from Junín, central Peru: Laterallus jamaicensis tuerosi ssp. n. (Aves: Rallidae). Steenstrupia: 277-282.

Taxonomic note
Laterallus jamaicensis (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into L. jamaicensis and L. tuerosi following Fjeldså (1983), contra SACC (2005), pending the outcome of investigation into the taxonomy of this group by

Distribution and population
Laterallus jamaicensis is widespread, but very local, in fresh and saline marshes, wet meadows and savanna in North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. The nominate race occurs on the east coast of USA, with sporadic records inland to Colorado and Minnesota (but no confirmed nesting since 1932). It is very local in north-east Mexico, Belize, Guatemala (only in 1903), Costa Rica, Panama (only in 1963), with an unconfirmed report from Honduras. It is locally rare in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but mainly a winter visitor on Jamaica and Cuba. It was probably extirpated as a breeder from Puerto Rico (to USA) by introduced mongooses, and is now extremely rare in winter. It is recorded as a non-breeder in the Virgin Islands (to USA). There is one recent record from north Brazil. The race coturniculus is very local in south-west USA, irregularly to north-west Mexico (one recent record). The race murivagans occurs at few coastal marshes in central Peru. The race salinasi is rare and local in south Peru to central Chile and adjacent parts of west-central Argentina. It may occur (doubtful race pygmaeus) in the Colombian East Andes. In USA, most populations declined drastically in the 20th century, and the breeding range seriously contracted.

Population justification
25,000-100,000 jamaicensis (unpublished report 'Waterbird Conservation for the Americas 2001' cited in Wetlands International 2002); plus <10,000 coturniculus (Eddleman et al. 1994).

Trend justification
This poorly known species is facing a number of serious threats which are thought to be causing declines in many parts of its range. The number of recent records suggest it is extremely scarce or no longer occurs in a number of former areas. The overall population is suspected to be declining at a moderately rapid rate.

It inhabits fresh and saline marshes, wet meadows and savanna. It occupies marshes with shallower water than other rallids and requires some tall vegetation to escape into. Feeds on terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates.

Continued massive degradation of wetlands habitats give cause for concern. In parts of its range it is threatened by pollution, drought, wildfires, groundwater removal, changing water levels, grazing and agricultural expansion (Eddleman et al. 1994, Taylor and van Perlo 1998).

Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in a number of protected areas but no specific conservation actions are known. Conservation Actions Proposed
Conserve wetland habitats within its range. Manage retreat at coastal sites so they continue to support the species in the face of sea level rise and increased storm frequency. Protect threatened sub-populations. Develop and introduce methods for monitoring population changes over time.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Eddleman, W. R.; Flores, R. E.; Legare, M. L. 1994. Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis). In: Poole, A.; Gill, F. (ed.), The birds of North America, No. 123, pp. 1-20. The Academy of Natural Sciences, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

Taylor, B. 1998. Rails: a guide to the rails, crakes, gallinules and coots of the world. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Isherwood, I., Sharpe, C J, Wege, D.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Laterallus jamaicensis. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, Coots)
Species name author (Gmelin, 1789)
Population size 35000-110000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 542,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species