Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Common Gallinule and Purple Gallinule

Today on amateurnithologist we bring you two similar members of the rail family who are, in fact, different birds. Looking at these two, you might not see how a mistake could be made, since once is so much more colorful than the other. However, these are swamp birds, meaning you're often going to be observing them under less-than ideal conditions. If you've got poor light, or the bird is covered with muck, or hiding among reeds, you might miss the Purple Gallinule's distinctive iridescent green and blue feathers, especially if you've seen a dozen Common Gallinules already that day. Or maybe you're trying to identify juvenile birds. Who knows what you're doing out there in the swamp. Amateurnithologist doesn't judge you.

Let's look at these birds
Common Gallinule aka. Common Moorhen aka. Florida Gallinule aka. Swamp Chicken (colloq.)
Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Florida, USA
Member of the Rails, Gallinules, and Coots Family
§A Plump of Moorhens§

~true bird fact~ Like another bird he is commonly confused with, the American Coot, Common Gallinule has some neat feet.  They lack webbing and have long toes, which they can use just as easily to swim as to walk atop floating vegetation.

Starts every morning with a cup of coffee
Gets impatient with wishy-washy people
Likes hats

Purple Gallinule aka. Yellow-legged Gallinule
Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Florida, USA
Member of the Rails, Gallinules, and Coots Family

~true bird fact~ The fact that Florida even has Purple Gallinules at all is a testament to their incredible powers of travel. Although they look like kind of dopey fliers, they must have something going on. They're essentially a South American bird, but regularly make it all the way to destinations like Canada, the Northern US, South Africa (?), and Europe (!?).

Expects a lot from her friends
Has a sensitive heart
Good taste, but doesn't need things that are 'fancy'
Lives out her ideals in a way that most don't
So how do you tell these guys apart? The easiest way, as I alluded to before, is not always the color. You need to get a really good look to tell the difference in real life, when you're far away. A good thing to look for is the beak, especially the extended plate-y part above it. If it's just red, you've got a common Gallinule, if it's pale or light blue you've got a Purple, and if it's not there at all you're looking at a coot. Another distinguishing feature is that the Common Gallinule has a white stripe along her side. I hope this helps you next time you have to pick a Gallinule out of a police lineup or something.

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