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Eastern Black Rail Acoustic Surveys

Description: We conducted acoustic surveys using Wildlife Acoustics' Song Meter SM4 for the federally threatened eastern black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis jamaicensis) at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge during the spring of 2021. The primary objective of the study was to determine if the eastern black rail could be detected in either of two freshwater marshes. The second objective was to document the avian biodiversity at both sites. The third objective was to determine if acoustic hardware and software could identify birds at the species level without the need for human aid (i.e., manual review by ear).


While we did record a Virginia rail (Rallus limicola) in April, we did not detect any eastern black rails. A total of 46 bird species were identified from their vocalizations. We found remote sensing of avian species has both advantages and disadvantages over the more traditional field surveys and always requires human confirmation of vocalizations. The greatest advantage is the hard evidence documentation (i.e., the sound recording), especially when the species is threatened or endangered. Earthology staff also attended the Florida Black Rail Working Group and will attend the Autonomous Recording Unit Survey Working Group in March to share our experiences. Monitoring was conducted under a Refuge Research and Monitoring Special Use Permit # 41572-2021-02.

Client: Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

Date Start/Complete: 2021 - 2023

Pelican Island Refuge
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