Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arkansas
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Bolenbaugh, J. R., T. Cooper, R. S. Brady, K. L. Willard, and D. G. Krementz. Population status and habitat associations of the king rail in the Midwestern United States. Waterbirds 35:535-545.


The migratory population of the King Rail (Rallus elegans) has declined dramatically during the past 50 years, emphasizing the need to document the distribution and status of this species to help guide conservation efforts. In an effort to guide King Rail breeding habitat protection and restoration, a landscape suitability index (LSI) model was developed for the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture (JV). To validate this model, 264 sites were surveyed across the JV region in 2008 and 2009 using the National Marshbird Monitoring protocol. Two other similarly collected data sets from Wisconsin (250 sites) and Ohio (259 sites) as well as data from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's eBird data base were added to our data set. Sampling effort was not uniform across the study area. King Rails were detected at 29 sites with the greatest concentration in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Too few detections were made to validate the LSI model. King Rail detection sites tended to have microtopographic heterogeneity, more emergent herbaceous wetland vegetation, and less woody vegetation. The migrant population of the King Rail is rare and warrants additional conservation efforts to achieve stated conservation population targets.