Eastern Black Rail by Yulia Avgustinovich

Location: 307 Elm Street NW, Washington D.C. 20001

Painted: 09/10/23

About the Mural: This Black Rail looms large next to the Park at LeDroit, a community space in the LeDroit Park neighborhood of Washington D.C. The first Audubon Mural Project installation in the nation’s capital, the rail was commissioned as part of a nationwide effort by the Endangered Species Coalition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. The landmark environmental law provides crucial protection to animals like the Eastern Black Rail, whose population has suffered a precipitous decline.

About the Bird: A small, secretive marsh bird, no bigger than a sparrow, the Black Rail is challenging to find, even for scientists studying the stealthy creature to learn more about the cryptic species. The rail spends most of its time hiding in dense vegetation like Saltmeadow Cordgrass and Saltgrass, periodically sending its distinctive ki-ki-doo call out in the dusk and dawn hours. Because the bird is more likely to run than fly, some birders refer to it as a "feathered mouse."

Black Rails nest only a few inches above the ground, which means they are particularly susceptible to effects of climate change such as sea-level rise, high tides, and extreme storms. Over time much of their salt marsh habitat has also been converted for agriculture and other uses. As a result, the Eastern subspecies of Black Rail, which lives primarily along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2020. In order to help the bird rebound, a network of partners is working to identify strategies for taking action to conserve it all along the Atlantic Flyway.

About the Artist: After studying art in college in Belarus, Yulia Avgustinovich realized she wasn’t the sort of artist who wanted to be sitting in a studio painting only for herself. So she brought her work into the street for everyone to enjoy. Avgustinovich began her career painting murals in Moscow, where she attended The Saint Petersburg Arts Academy for a degree in Monumental Public Art. Now based in Maryland, the muralist takes special inspiration from nature. “I want to bring nature back into our concrete cities,” she says. “With my art, I try to convey its complexity and its beautiful essence.”

When Avgustinovich began to research the Eastern Black Rail’s lifestyle and habitat for this mural, she became “infatuated” with the little bird. “But learning how its numbers had declined in recent decades due to climate change and the destruction of wetlands, I realized it’s my duty to try and help preserve this secretive, tiny bird by bringing public awareness to it," she says. "I hope that people see the huge image of this little bird, get inspired to learn more about it, and help to protect Black Rail and ensure its survival.”