Graduate Project


Utilizing Vocalizations to Survey, Identify and Monitor Eastern Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis) on Long Island, New York Public Deposited

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  • The Eastern black rail (laterallus jamaicanesis) is the smallest of the rail species and facing catastrophic decline throughout its home range. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the black rail population has decreased as much as 90%, leading to its proposed Federal listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (2018). Due to its potential change in listing status, it is important to get accurate population estimates for the black rail and to establish survey methods to detect absence/presence of this mysterious species. To that end, this project documents my work initiated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on a pilot study to determine the presence of black rail at a historic breeding site at Gilgo State Park, Oak Beach, NY. Initiated in 2017, the first year of the study consisted of determining survey routes, ground truthing the survey route and working out the logistics of accessing the marsh. In 2018, the department launched and conducted its first call-response black rail survey, recording a positive detection for the species. This was the first detection of black rails on Long Island since the 2nd Breeding Bird Atlas was conducted between 2000-2005, during which time one bird was heard calling from the marsh (McGowan and Corwin, 2008). This call-response survey protocol was repeated in 2019 with the addition of an acoustic element and vegetation surveys to determine associations with vegetative habitats. The project has yielded positive detection of the black rail at Oak Beach, NY, which has subsequently been analyzed for variables of tide cycle and moon phase and factors that may limit presence of black rails at Oak Beach (availability of quality habitat, presence of predators, and natural range limitations.) By creating a working survey method, researchers can work together in determining where black rails are present and take the necessary steps to protect them and their habitats.
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