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There has been an interesting discussion about Black Rails on the Oklahoma 
list, prompted by the publication of Eric Beck's paper. See 
http://www.suttoncenter.org/2007_Beck_and_Patten_Black_Rail.pdf.

After surveying all published Oklahoma records of Black Rail, Beck 
recommends that a study be undertaken to determine the status of Black Rails 
in Oklahoma and suggests how to do it. In the process, he cites several 
papers by our own Bill Eddleman, who is evidently an expert on Black Rails 
in Florida and on the east coast. Beck's paper also contains a map showing 
where Black Rails have been found in his state.

What especially interests me is that the 15 or so records are scattered all 
over the state. Although there is only one confirmed breeding record, 
several of the other records are of immature birds under circumstances that 
suggest possible breeding.

I am also familiar with impressive evidence that Black Rails are breeding 
regularly in Kansas. I have seen and heard them at Quivira NWR, but there is 
also a site in Coldwater, Comanche County, KS, where they are found annually 
and are presumed to breed. Googling "Kansas Black Rails" gets you to a nice 
"range map" which shows the eleven widely separated Kansas Counties in which 
Black Rails have been found. There are also populations in Colorado and 
Illinois where breeding is presumed to occur. Apparently, they have also 
bred in Nebraska. Although both the Missouri and Iowa checklists treat them 
as casual or accidental, one "Audubon Watch List" web site suggests the 
possibility that they made breed in both states.

What blows my mind is that this bird can show up regularly in such widely 
separated locations in these middle American states. How did they find them 
in the first instance?  I speculate that BLRA is more common  in prairie 
states than usually believed,  despite published checklists, which treat it 
as only casual or at least super rare in several states. My experience with 
Black Rails on the east coast (Elliot I. Md.) suggests that they usually do 
not begin to call until about two ours after sunset. They usually run rather 
than flush. It is easy to see how a BLRA breeding site could be overlooked.

I note that we had someone in our state last year, who was studying King 
Rails, another rare species this far west. Has anyone ever tried 
systematically to discover if BLRAs are breeding in Missouri?

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
[log in to unmask] 

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