COMMON GALLINULE – (Gallinula galeata)
The Common gallinule used to be called ‘Common moorhen’, but now the latter name refers to the Old World species, whereas the former is the New World one.
Common gallinules forage in shallow water like ducks but their feet look more like those of hens, although they have evolved to allow for good swimming. This bird is charcoal to black, with a little bit of white on the wings and tail underside. They have a red bill and frontal shield. Sexes are similar. Juveniles lack the frontal shield.
Common gallinules eat vegetation and invertebrates in fresh water marshlands and ponds, and rice fields. The endangered Hawaiian gallinule (Gallinula galeata sandvicensis) is a subspecies endemic to Hawaii. (The Latin word ‘sandvicensis’ refers to the name given to Hawaii by explorer James Cook, the Sandwich Islands. So whenever you see this word in the Latin name of a species, it means it is endemic to Hawaii.) Compare the photos below of the Common gallinule and the Hawaiian gallinule.
Although the common gallinule breeds on PEI, it has only been observed occasionally so far, in the summer or fall. Its breeding range encompasses most of the eastern half of the USA and parts of southern Canada. It is a year-round resident of southeast USA, Mexico and a good part of South America (except the jungle).
Here’s a video of a Hawaiian gallinule foraging in shallow water and trashing around plant material. Toward the end we can also see a Hawaiian coot, a subspecies of the American coot.