Black Rail Surveys

  • Blue Sky over Myrtle Pond

Black Rails are a highly secretive marsh bird about the size of a mouse. These birds can be found in Georgia marshes, although they are a rare species. Due to their small size, Black Rails prefer shorter vegetation in the high-marsh like Distichlis spicata and Salicornia sp. Due to habitat loss, Black Rails are considered “Near Threatened” by the IUCN, and on the National Audubon Society’s “Watchlist” as a declining species. Very little research has been conducted on Black Rails, so there is much to learn about these birds.

Little St. Simons Island conducted its first Black Rail Survey with Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources in May 2014. By using 7 minute playback calls at 20 different survey sites, we aim to receive a call in response. Surveys are conducted at night when Black Rails are presumably most vocal. Other uncommon rail species, like King Rail are also noted if calling.

Secretive marsh birds are a great indicator of marsh health and productivity. By studying these species over time, we can determine either deterioration or improvements to the island’s wetlands. Marsh bird surveys will continue to occur for not only Black Rails, but all marsh-obligate species during the Spring months of the next few years.