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COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Yellow Rail in Canada

Summary of Population Size, Number of Breeding Localities and Trends

The nature of the Yellow Rail’s global range dictates that any discussion of its Canadian status must consider the U.S. status as well. Thus Table 2 summarizes what is known regarding Yellow Rail numbers, the number of summer locations and population trends throughout its global range. The information presented varies greatly in degree of confidence level, and is simply the best information available to us.

Given the seemingly continuous range of the Yellow Rail in the Hudson/James Bay region, at least at the scale of one site per 100 km x 100 km blocks, it is probably safe to conclude that there could be a few thousand pairs there. We estimate roughly another 2000 pairs for Canada, and about 600-750 more breeding in the U.S. We will not even attempt to estimate the number of sites in the Hudson/James region. However, the estimated global population of 2300-2800 pairs breeding elsewhere than in the Hudson/James Bay region breeds on an estimated 300-900 sites. Outside the Hudson/James Bay region, we know of 187 Canadian sites where it has been found during the breeding season and where it might still occur (Figure 3).


Figure 3: Sites where the Yellow Rail has been Found in Canada During the Breeding Season and where it Could Still Occur

Figure 3: Sites where the Yellow Rail has been found in Canada during the breeding season and wher it could still occur.

There is almost no information on population trends, but there is enough direct information regarding Yellow Rail habitat trends, which, when combined with known landscape changes, gives a fairly clear picture of what has likely happened to populations in different parts of its range. There is no reason to believe that Yellow Rails are increasing anywhere in the global range at any time of year. On the contrary, there is ample evidence showing that the species’ habitat has declined and is still declining throughout its southern range, albeit more slowling. In the remaining portion of its range, the Hudson/James Bay region, it may also be declining in certain areas– certainly the Snow Goose problem cannot be helping it (see Trend in Quality and Quantity of Critical Habitat for details). The relatively small wintering range is declining.