Friday, April 18, 2014

Common Gallinule

The birds at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center were so tame that I wondered if they were captive. These gallinules appeared to be adorned with red leg bands. This color proves to be a good field mark on any closely observed breeding Common Gallinule. Common Gallinules look like ducks but are actually rails. Note the long, unwebbed toes. This species has had a recent, rocky systematic history. Not so long ago, the ornithologists merged North American Common Gallinules with nearly identical European Common Moorhens, and the resulting species was named Common Moorhen. Now the name has reverted to Common Gallinule, due to differences in calls, bill structure, and DNA.

Common Gallinules are found across much of eastern North America, Mexico, and Central and South America. In many areas they are considered to be game-birds. Bannor and Kiviat (2002) note that the effects of hunting pressure on gallinules is unknown, as are environmental interactions between these birds and other marsh-loveing inhabitants such as muskrats. Wetland pollution and destruction also are threats. The aforementioned authors also relate the story told in Hawaiian mythology that the gallinule’s forehead was scorched red while the bird brought fire to the Hawaiian people.


  1. We never stopped calling them Moorhens :) Yours do look a little different to ours, the bill slightly longer and droopier-tipped.

    1. Those of you interested in European birds and bugs should check out Marianne’s excellent blog: