Black Rail

Laterallus jamaicensis




Rails, Gallinules and Coots (Rallidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Pale pink to white with brown spots

Number of Eggs:

4 - 13

Incubation Days:


Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

Hidden in grass or weeds.

Nest Material:

Woven, soft grass, sedges or other available vegetation.


Most migrate



Black Rail: Smallest North American rail, mostly dark gray or nearly black with white-speckled back, belly, and flanks. Nape and upper back are chestnut-brown. Eyes are red. Sexes are similar. Juvenile has brown to orange eyes.

Range and Habitat

Black Rail: Nests on marshes and open grasslands from southern New England along the Atlantic coast to the Gulf coast states and also the coast of California. Scattered distribution inland. Spends winters from the southern Atlantic coast states south to Central America. Preferred habitats include marshes, swamps, and wet meadows.

Breeding and Nesting

Black Rail: Four to thirteen brown-spotted, pale pink to white eggs are laid in a deep cup of finely woven soft grass, sedges, or other available vegetation. Nest is usually concealed in a clump of green grass, with grass arched over so it is hidden. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 28 days. Sometimes produces two broods per year.

Foraging and Feeding

Black Rail: Feeds on seeds of aquatic plants, grass, insects, and isopods (small crustaceans).


Black Rail: Usually silent, but during breeding season, male utters a repeated "kic-kee-doo" or "kic-kic-kerr."

Similar Species

Black Rail: Resembles chick of other rails, which lack white spots on upperparts and bars on flanks.

The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
Also called the hindneck or collar, it is the back of the neck where the head joins the body.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X