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Common Gallinule - BirdForum Opus

G. g. galeata
Photo © by Arthur Grosset
Aguas de São Pedro, São Paulo, Brazil, 19 August 2004
Gallinula galeata

Identification

Length 30-36 cm (11¾-14¼ in); weight 230-340 g (males larger than females).
Adult: Slaty black, except for a white under-tail and white streaks on the flanks. Eye red; bill red with a greenish-yellow tip; frontal shield red, with a truncated or even slightly bilobed apex; legs and feet yellowish green with a red garter above the tarsal joint.
Immature: Above dark brown; below buffy, paler in centre of belly; iris grayish brown; bill and frontal shield greenish brown; legs and feet greenish, garter yellow.
Chick: Downy black; feathers around neck tipped white; skin above eye blue; bill red, tip yellow; small frontal shield red; legs and feet blackish brown.

Similar species

G. g. cachinnans, juvenile
Photo © by onlybill
Brazos Bend State Park, Texas, USA 7 September 2008

Common Moorhen, recently found as a vagrant in Alaska and suspected in easternmost Canada, is very similar but differs in the more rounded top of the bill shield (only distinguishable in adults), and also different calls.

Distribution

G. g. sandvicensis
Photo © by Mick Harris
O'ahu, Hawaii, 26 October 2010

From southern Canada south to Central and South America, on the Hawaiian Islands and Galapagos Islands.

Taxonomy

Flight
Photo © by Stanley Jones
Brazos Bend State Park, Texas, USA, 21 April 2021

Formerly treated conspecific with Common Moorhen.

Subspecies

There are 7 subspecies1:

Habitat

Virtually any kind of freshwater: marshlands and swamps, lakeshores and riverbanks, often in urban parks and sewage ponds. Frequently feeds on grass adjacent to water.

Behaviour

Actions

Runs across the water before take-off. Legs trail behind. Swims with a jerky head movement. Often seen swimming and feeding while doing so, but also feeds during excursions up on e.g., lawns.

Diet

Omnivorous. Grazes on land and dives, or dabbles, for vegetable matter, small crustaceans and insects.

Breeding

Occurs in all months of the year; may rear up to 8 broods/year. The nest is a bowl of rushes and reeds concealed in dense aquatic vegetation well above the water level; built by both sexes. Clutch: 4-9 eggs (sometimes up to 11, possibly laid by 2 females). Eggs: Dark buff to grayish white, spotted, freckled and blotched with red-brown and slate; weigh about 25 g. Incubation: 21-22 days by both sexes; the female incubates only by day and the male incubates at night. Fledging: 40-50 days; young dependent on parents for 1-6 weeks after first flight.

Vocalisation

Primary call is a is a rich nasal “laughter” not heard from similar Common Moorhen. Also a wide variety of clucking and chattering calls, sometimes repeated for long periods.

Movements

In North America most of eastern population migratory, moving to winter quarters along coast and south to Panama, West Indies and possibly South America. Some seasonal altitudinal migration in western population and seasonal movements in South America. Hawaiian population resident.

References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. SACC proposal to split Common Gallinule from Common Moorhen
  4. Bannor, B. K. and E. Kiviat (2002). Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.685
  5. del Hoyo, J., Collar, N., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/467254 on 26 January 2020).
  6. Pyle, R.L., and P. Pyle. 2017. The Birds of the Hawaiian Islands: Occurrence, History, Distribution, and Status. B.P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, HI, U.S.A. Version 2 (1 January 2017) http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/birds/rlp-monograph/

Recommended Citation

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