• Photo by David Seibel
  • Photo by David Seibel

Protection Status

Black Rail Protection Status

The black rail is not federally listed as endangered or threatened despite its extremely low population levels that appear to be declining dramatically. Black rails are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 1.

Black rails are only provided special legislative protection in 6 of 11 states where it breeds along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts by inclusion on state threatened/endangered lists (Figure 2 and Table 2).


Figure 2 – State-level Protection Status of the Black Rail along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts


Table 2 – Population and Protection Status of the Black Rail within the breeding range of the Atlantic and Gulf coastal states – Table will be updated as more information becomes summarized.

State (North to South) # of Breeding Locations Breeding Population Trend State Protection Status
Connecticut 0 Likely Extirpated Endangered
New York 1 Possibly Extirpated Endangered
Delaware < 5 Declining Endangered
Pennsylvania Unknown Unknown None
New Jersey < 10 Declining Threatened
Maryland < 20 Declining Endangered
Virginia < 20 Declining None
North Carolina < 20 Declining Special Concern
South Carolina < 5 Unknown None
Georgia < 5 Unknown None
Florida < 20 Declining None
Texas < 20 Possibly Declining None

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits, unless permitted by regulations, to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for transportation, transport, cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the terms of this Convention . . . for the protection of migratory birds . . . or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.” (16 U.S.C. 703)