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Elusive wetland bird added to Florida's endangered species list

The 'black rail' is rarely seen or heard, and its habitat has been disappearing because of climate change.
Credit: AP
In this June 2017 photo taken in the ACE Basin region of South Carolina and provided by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, a male black rail offers an insect to a female as part of their courtship behaviors. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Eastern black rail a threatened species on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, but stopped short of the stronger protections some environmentalists were seeking for the elusive bird now imperiled by habitat destruction, sea level rise, and the increasing frequency and intensity of storms with climate change. (Christy Hand/South Carolina Department of Natural Resources via AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The state of Florida has added one of the most elusive wetland birds to its endangered and threatened species list. 

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioners met Thursday and Friday online, adopting the eastern black rail bird to the list, in order to be consistent with federal protections. It is the size of a sparrow, found in marshy areas, and is described by Audubon as “extremely secretive.”

Rarely seen or heard, the black rail’s habitat is disappearing rapidly as climate change and development continues to destroy wetlands.

Some of the birds’ preferred habitat has been converted to homes and golf course communities.

“They stay to the dense overhead vegetation and are like mice in the marsh moving through runnels and very reluctant to fly,” Bryan Watts, director of the College of William and Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology told The News-Press.

The birds were first logged in the science community in the mid-1700s after being discovered in the Caribbean.

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