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Species Guide
A photo of a Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)
Common Gallinule

Common Gallinule

Gallinula galeata

The common gallinule, Gallinula galeata, is a bird of the Rallidae family, characterized by its dark plumage with a contrasting white undertail. It sports yellow legs and a distinctive red frontal shield. The juveniles are a tad browner and lack the red shield of the adults.

Identification Tips

Adult common gallinules measure between 12.6–13.8 inches in length, with a wingspan of 21.3–24.4 inches, and weigh 10.9–16.1 ounces. Their dark feathers and yellow legs are notable, as is the red shield on their forehead. When observing these birds, look for their unique movement through vegetation and their ability to hop across lily pads with their wide feet.


This species thrives in well-vegetated marshes, ponds, canals, and other wetlands across the Americas.


Common gallinules are widespread, found throughout North America, except for the polar regions and many tropical rainforests. They are migratory in the northern parts of their range, where waters freeze.


These birds are often secretive yet can become quite tame in certain areas. They are known to defend their territories vigorously and exhibit a variety of gargling calls. When threatened, they may emit loud hisses.

Song & Calls

The common gallinule has a repertoire of gargling calls and is known to hiss loudly when feeling threatened.


Breeding occurs in marsh environments and well-vegetated lakes. The nest is a basket-like structure built on the ground within dense vegetation. Egg-laying starts in spring, with about 8 eggs laid early in the season and fewer later on. Both parents incubate and feed the young, which fledge after 40–50 days.

Similar Species

The American coot is similar in some regions but can be distinguished by its white bill and frontal shield.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet includes a wide variety of vegetable material and small aquatic creatures. They forage in or beside water, sometimes upending to feed, and their wide feet are well-adapted for moving about on vegetation.

Conservation status

Despite habitat loss in parts of its range, the common gallinule remains abundant and widespread, classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Common Gallinule Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Common Gallinule Fun Facts

Did you know?
Common Gallinule chick's have spurs on their wings to help them climb vegatation.

Common Gallinules on Birda


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