New York Natural Heritage Program
Black Rail
Laterallus jamaicensis (Gmelin, 1789)

Habitat [-]
Black Rails occupy coastal salt marsh habitat along the south shore of Long Island in New York. They are generally found in higher marsh habitat than other rail species, with lower water depths required for breeding. Rangewide habitats also include shallow freshwater marsh and wet meadows (Eddleman et al. 1988). In NY, they are known to nest in saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) (Bull 1964) and are suspected to breed in saltwater cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) as well (Post and Enders 1969). Black Rails are considered to be an area-sensitive species, requiring more than 50 ha of marsh habitat to breed, although their territories tend to be smaller than 5 ha (Wilson et al. 2007).

Associated Ecological Communities [-]
  • Brackish meadow*
    A moist, moderately well-drained brackish (salinity 0.5-18 ppt) perennial grassland with occasional isolated shrubs that is typically situated in a belt at the upper edge of salt marshes bordering sandy uplands, but may occupy large portions of interdunal basins. The community usually develops in areas with a unique combination of soils and hydrology, on deep deposits of periodically windblown or overwashed gleyed sands that are usually flooded only during spring tides and during major coastal storms, approximately two to three times per year.

    * probable association but not confirmed
  • Freshwater tidal marsh*
    A marsh community that occurs in shallow bays, shoals, and at the mouth of tributaries of large tidal river systems, where the water is usually fresh (salinity less than 0.5 ppt), and less than 2 m (6 ft) deep at high tide. Typically there are two zones in a freshwater tidal marsh: a low-elevation area dominated by short, broadleaf emergents bordering mudflats or open water, and a slightly higher-elevation area dominated by tall grass-like plants.

    * probable association but not confirmed
  • High salt marsh
    A coastal marsh community that occurs in sheltered areas of the seacoast, in a zone extending from mean high tide up to the limit of spring tides. It is periodically flooded by spring tides and flood tides. High salt marshes typically consist of a mosaic of patches that are mostly dominated by a single graminoid species.
  • Salt panne
    A shallow depression in a salt marsh where the marsh is poorly drained. Pannes occur in both low and high salt marshes. Pannes in low salt marshes usually lack vegetation, and the substrate is a soft, silty mud. Pannes in a high salt marsh are irregularly flooded by spring tides or flood tides, but the water does not drain into tidal creeks. After a panne has been flooded the standing water evaporates and the salinity of the soil water is raised well above the salinity of sea-water.