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Secretive eastern black rail added to Florida’s endangered species list

Rarely seen or heard, the bird’s habitat is disappearing rapidly as climate change and development continue to destroy wetlands.
Some of the eastern black rail's preferred habitat in Florida has been converted to homes and golf course communities.
Some of the eastern black rail's preferred habitat in Florida has been converted to homes and golf course communities. [ CHRISTINE HAND | South Carolina Department of Natural Resources ]
Published Mar. 1
Updated Mar. 1

FORT MYERS — The state of Florida has added one of the most elusive wetland birds to its endangered and threatened species.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioners met Thursday and Friday online, adopting the eastern black rail bird to the list, in order to be consistent with federal protections. It is the size of a sparrow, found in marshy areas, and is described by Audubon as “extremely secretive.”

Rarely seen or heard, the black rail’s habitat is disappearing rapidly as climate change and development continue to destroy wetlands.

Some of the birds’ preferred habitat has been converted to homes and golf course communities.

On the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Black Rails nest in the higher, drier parts of marshes, where tidal activity is least and where different types of grasses, sedges, and rushes occur in mosaic-like patches, according to Cornell University’s allaboutbirds.org website. They’re in the same family as gallinules and coots.

“They stay to the dense overhead vegetation and are like mice in the marsh moving through runnels and very reluctant to fly,” Bryan Watts, director of the College of William and Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology told The News-Press.

The birds were first logged in the science community in the mid-1700s after being discovered in the Caribbean.