Endangered Species – King Rail

King rail with young July, 1999 

Many people have never heard of a king rail, but making sure this state-endangered bird continues to find suitable wetland habitat in Missouri is a goal that benefits everyone.

When people think of wildlife species that motivate us to do more to save Missouri’s outdoors, it’s doubtful many picture the king rail. It’s not that anyone dislikes this long-beaked, crow-sized wading bird; it’s just that knowledge of their existence is pretty much limited to birding and biological circles. Unlike hellbenders, Indiana bats, bald eagles, and other better-known species that are either in population trouble or have recovered from it – “king rail” is a name that isn’t on everyone’s ecological radar.

Their highly secretive nature has always placed king rails on the outskirts of mainstream familiarity. Even in the 19th and early 20th centuries when their population was greater, king rails were heard far more often than they were seen by bird enthusiasts and hunters who frequented wetland areas. Of course, Missouri had more wetland habitat 150 years ago than today and therein lies concerns for both king rails and people. Before we get to that, here’s more about the bird.

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