Principle Investigator: Dr. Steve Beissinger , ESPM
University of California Berkeley, for more project information click here
Over the past decade, the status of the state-threatened Black Rail and the more common Virginia Rail has been studied in the Sierra Foothills. The birds have been very secretly surveyed at over 200 small wetlands in Butte, Yuba, and Nevada counties to determine if sites are occupied each year. Occupancy for both rails has been declining since West Nile Virus arrived in late summer 2005. Grazing can also influence occupancy because rails require sites with dense vegetation. Both species have been captured to obtain blood and feather samples to study their movements using genetic markers and to examine their diets using stable isotopes. The work is still in progress, but suggests strong overlap in habitat preference and diet of Black Rail and Virginia Rail.