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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Black Rail -- Laterallus jamaicensis

RANGE: Breeds locally along the Atlantic Coast from New York south to central Florida; on the Gulf Coast in eastern Texas and western Florida; in Kansas, and from California to South America. Winters along the coast of California from the breeding range north to Tomales Bay; in the Imperial and lower Colorado River Valleys of southeastern California; along the Gulf Coast from southeastern Texas east to Florida; and in South America.

STATUS: Locally common.

HABITAT: Inhabits coastal salt marshes, and occasionally inland freshwater marshes and wet meadows. Uses grainfields and hay meadows to some extent. Prefers higher portions of a marsh, where vegetation is rank and dense and the ground is damp. Life history poorly known; spends much of its time under matted grasses in high salt marshes.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Marshes with areas of dense, but not necessarily tall, cover and damp soil.

NEST: Completely hides nest in clumps of marsh grass or at the base of glasswort, in or along the edge of a marsh. Usually places nest on matted dead grass, but sometimes directly on damp ground.

FOOD: Probably feeds mainly on invertebrates.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Pough 1951, Terres 1980, Todd 1977.

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