“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Eastern black rail a threatened species on Wednesday, 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.
Nicknamed the “feathered mouse,” the eastern black rail is about six inches long, with white-flecked dark feathers, a brown nape and brilliant red eyes. Populations have declined by more than 75% over the last 10 to 20 years, according to a wildlife service news release announcing Endangered Species Act protection.
“They are one of the front-line species dealing with the impact of sea level rise,” said Bryan Watts, a professor of conservation biology at the College of William and Mary. “That’s really the cause of their catastrophic decline.””