COMMON GALLINULE – (Gallinula galeata)
DESCRIPTION: The Common Gallinule is a water bird that is generally black, with a little bit of white on the wings and tail underside. The bird has a red bill with a yellow tip, and a red frontal shield. The legs are green-yellow except for red near the belly. The feet are large like those of hens. Sexes are similar. Juveniles lack the frontal shield. It is about one foot long (30 cm).
NAME: The English name ‘Gallinule’ means ‘little hen’ in Latin. As for the Latin species name ‘galeata’, it means ‘helmet’, in reference to the bird’s frontal shield. Common gallinules used to be called ‘Common moorhens’, but now the latter name refers to the Old World species (Latin name Gallinula chloropus), whereas the former is the New World one.
HABITAT: Common gallinules forage in shallow water like ducks.
DIET: These water hens eat vegetation and invertebrates in fresh water marshlands, ponds and rice fields.
NESTING: The Common gallinule builds a nest in thick vegetation, either on the ground near water or in trees. The nest is a large bowl of dry vegetation. An average of six grey eggs are laid, which are incubated by both parents. They also both care for the chicks.
DISTRIBUTION: The breeding range of this species 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).
ON PEI: Although the common gallinule breeds on Prince Edward Island, it has only been observed occasionally so far, in the summer or fall.
CONSERVATION: The common gallinule is still widespread enough that it is listed as ‘least concern’, in spite of being hunted in some states of the USA.
NOTES: In spite of spending most of their life on wetlands, the feet of the common gallinule look more like those of hens, although they have evolved to allow for good swimming.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Hawaiian Gallinule – The endangered Hawaiian gallinule (Gallinula galeata sandvicensis) is a subspecies of the common gallinule that is endemic to Hawaii.
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
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.