Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

Black Rail Laterallus jamaicensis


The Black Rail is, latitudinally, the most widely distributed member of its genus occurring from high in the temperate zone of North America down to central Chile. Despite its trans-tropical distribution, in the Neotropics the black rail has a very patchy distribution with a complex pattern of resident and migratory populations in the Caribbean, Central and North America and in South America proper, three named and phenotypically distinctive subspecies occurring along coastal Peru, Lago Junin (Peru) and the central coast of Chile. It breeds a wide diversity of habitats such as fresh and saline marshes, wet meadows and savanna and likely occurs in more on wintering grounds. Its natural history is the best known in its genus due to work in temperate North America where it primarily feeds on small aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.

Help complete this species

There are many ways to contribute—we need species information, photographs, audio, video, translations, maps, distribution data, and bird sightings. There's a role for everyone!

Learn more


© Geoffrey A. Keller

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: