Common Gallinule

Gallinula galeata
Range Map

Formerly called the Common Moorhen, and like its relative the American Coot, the Common Gallinule is actually a member of the rail family (Rallidae), though both species swim and behave quite like a typical waterfowl. In the western USA their range is mostly year round in wetland areas of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the Gulf coast through Florida and south through Mexico, Central and South America. Since the mid-twentieth century these birds have been expanding their range north through the eastern USA, and now they migrate in summer as far as southern Canada.

There are seven subspecies of Common Gallinule recognised by science, including the endangered `Alae `Ula in Hawaii. All members require well vegetated freshwater lakes for their survival.

  • G. g. cachinnans lives in southeastern Canada, eastern United States, southwestern United States south to Panama, and on Bermuda and the Galapagos Islands.
  • G. g. cerceris lives in the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, and the Lesser Antilles.
  • G. g. barbadensis lives in Barbados.
  • G. g. pauxilla lives in Panama through northern and western Colombia, south to northwestern Peru.
  • G. g. galeata lives in Trinidad and from northern Venezuela and the Guianas south to central Argentina and Uruguay.
  • G. g. garmani lives in the Andes from southern Peru south to northern Chile and northwestern Argentina.
  • G. g. sandvicensis lives in Hawaii (Kauai and Oahu).

Most of my meetings with Common Gallinules have been in southern California, as I can enjoy their company within walking distance of my home. I’ve also met them at the Salton Sea and in Henderson (Nevada). While on my 2020 and 2021 Texas expeditions, I found them at many locations when I toured the entire Texas Gulf coast. The meetings I had in April-2021 were especially fun, because of the family group I met at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.

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