FWS To Consider Endangered Species Act Protection for Three Birds

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210,


Florida Sandhill Crane by www.birdphotos.com
Florida Sandhill Crane and chick by www.birdphotos.com

(Washington, D.C., October 6, 2011) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will conduct an in-depth status review of three birds – MacGillivray's Seaside Sparrow, Florida Sandhill Crane, and Black Rail – as part of a larger review of 374 rare southeastern aquatic, riparian, and wetland animal and plant species to determine whether any or all of them warrant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).


The Service made this decision, commonly known as a 90-day finding, after reviewing a petition seeking to add 404 species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. While this initial review found evidence to suggest that ESA protection may be warranted for 374 of these species, the Service will now undertake a more thorough status review before determining whether to propose any of them for listing.


The Black Rail is the smallest rail in North America. It dwells in dense marshes habitat where it feeds on insects, seeds, and aquatic invertebrates. Its secretive nature and only occasional flights mean it is seldom seen. The Black Rail is scarce along the East Coast from Florida to Delaware, with possibly only a dozen or fewer breeding locations left in each state. There are also small, discreet populations in California, Texas, and Hispaniola. Over the past ten to twenty years, populations may have declined by 75% or more, and have become dangerously low.

MacGillivray's Seaside Sparrow is one of four extant subspecies of the Seaside Sparrow, breeding from the North Atlantic Coast to Florida. It favors taller grasses in tidal marshes and is an omnivore but prefers seeds. There is scant population data on this bird, but it is known to be threatened by coastal development, which has accelerated up the East Coast.


The Florida Sandhill Crane is a year-round resident of Florida, with a population of about 4,000 – 6,000 birds. They are omnivorous and will eat seeds, worms, insects, lizards, crayfish and mice. Threats to the crane include loss of open rangeland and native prairie to development and agriculture. Shallow wetlands used by cranes are easily affected by drainage of adjacent uplands even if they are not directly disturbed.


In addition to the three birds, the FWS review will also include four mammals, 12 reptiles, 13 amphibians, 43 fish, 89 crustaceans, 78 molluscs, 37 insects, and 81 plants. Eighteen of the 404 species petitioned were already on the Service’s list of candidates for listing as threatened or endangered or are subjects of a proposed rule to list.


Following the status reviews, the Service will issue 12-month findings for each species and determine whether to propose them for listing. At this time, however, the 12-month findings are not scheduled to be completed within the next six years due to the priorities detailed in court-approved work plans involving FWS and WildEarth Guardians and another involving FWS and the Center for Biological Diversity. Those work plans provide for a systematic FWS status review, over a period of six years, of more than 250 species now on the candidate list (including 18 species that were identified in this current petition).


The 90-day finding can be viewed here. Comments on the 90-day findings must be received on or before November 28, 2011. Written comments regarding the status of these 374 species may be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS–R4–ES–2011–0049].
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [FWS–R4–ES–2011–0049]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

Email and faxes will not be accepted. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov.




American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.