My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata

The Common Gallinule is a bird in the family Rallidae. It was split from the European Common Moorhen by the American Ornithologists’ Union in July 2011. It lives around well-vegetated marshes, ponds, canals, and other wetlands in the Americas.

The Gallinule has dark plumage apart from the white under-tail, yellow legs and a red frontal shield. The young are browner and lack the red shield. It has a wide range of gargling calls and will emit loud hisses when threatened.

This is a common breeding bird in marsh environments and well-vegetated lakes. Populations in areas where the waters freeze, such as southern Canada and the northern USA, will migrate to more temperate climes. This species will consume a wide variety of vegetable material and small aquatic creatures. It forages beside or in the water, sometimes upending in the water to feed. Its wide feet allow it to hop about on lily pads. It is often secretive, but can become tame in some areas. Despite loss of habitat in parts of its range, the Common Gallinule remains plentiful and widespread.

The Common Gallinule will fight to defend its territory. The nest is a basket built on the ground in dense vegetation. Laying starts in spring, between mid-March and mid-May in northern hemisphere temperate regions. About 8 eggs are usually laid per female early in the season; a brood later in the year usually has only 5–8 or even fewer eggs. Nests may be re-used by different females. Incubation lasts about three weeks. Both parents incubate and feed the young. These fledge after 40–50 days, become independent usually a few weeks thereafter, and may raise their first brood the next spring. When threatened, the young may cling to a parent’s body, after which the adult birds fly away to safety, carrying their offspring with them.

On to my photos:

Common gallinule

Common gallinule

Common Gallinule

Common Gallinule

Juvenile Common Gallinule

Juvenile Common Gallinule

Juvenile Common Gallinule

Juvenile Common Gallinule

Common Gallinule and young

Common Gallinule and young

Common Gallinule and young

Common Gallinule and young

This is number 165 in my photo life list, only 185 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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11 responses

  1. love these!

    July 30, 2014 at 12:34 am

    • Thank you Cindy!

      July 30, 2014 at 1:37 am

  2. Gallinule is not a bird I have ever heard of so it was nice to read and see the pictures of it.

    July 30, 2014 at 2:33 am

    • Thanks Susan! In your area these birds are known as common moorhens, I’m not sure why they changed the name on this side of the pond.

      July 30, 2014 at 2:53 am

  3. Interesting. Another one I’ve never heard of!

    July 30, 2014 at 6:19 am

    • Interesting fact about the name change. Gallinule sounds like we’re putting on airs with a fancy name.

      July 30, 2014 at 9:01 am

      • Thanks Judy! I’m sure that the scientists naming birds prefer to study birds with fancier names.

        July 30, 2014 at 9:30 am

    • Thanks Allen! I had heard of these, but I didn’t think that they were ever seen in this area, and had never seen them before as far as I know.

      July 30, 2014 at 9:28 am

  4. I suppose there must be some difference in appearance/behaviour to account for the name change. I wonder what it was?

    July 30, 2014 at 9:14 am

    • Thank you Clare. Actually, I think that they change names just to confuse people like me. 😉

      July 30, 2014 at 9:31 am

      • And me too!

        July 30, 2014 at 9:35 am