• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

Common Gallinule


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Common Gallinule inhabits marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile. Vocal and boldly marked with a brilliant red shield over the bill, the species can be quite conspicuous. It sometimes uses its long toes to walk atop floating vegetation. This species was formerly called the Common Moorhen and is closely related to moorhen species in the Old World.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
12.6–13.8 in
32–35 cm
21.3–24.4 in
54–62 cm
10.9–16.1 oz
310–456 g
Other Names
  • Common Moorhen, Florida Gallinule
  • Gallinule poule-d'eau, Poule d'eau (French)
  • Pollo de agua, Gallareta frentirroja, Pollona negra (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Common Gallinule has long toes that makes it possible to walk on soft mud and floating vegetation. The toes have no lobes or webbing to help in swimming, but the moorhen is a good swimmer anyway.
  • The Common Gallinule sometimes lifts its feet out of the water in front of the body while swimming, perhaps to pass over vegetation.
  • Newly hatched chicks of the Common Gallinule have spurs on their wings that help them climb into the nest or grab emergent vegetation.
  • One subspecies of the Common Gallinule is found only in the Hawaiian Islands and has been known as the Hawaiian Moorhen, or 'alae 'ula.
  • The oldest recorded Common Gallinule was at least 9 years, 10 months old when it was recaptured in Louisiana in 1940, during some of the very earliest banding studies in the U.S.



Freshwater or brackish marshes with tall emergent vegetation, ponds, canals, and rice fields.



Seeds of grasses and sedges, and some snails.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–15 eggs
Egg Description
Gray or buff with variable speckles and splotches.
Condition at Hatching
Eyes open; covered with gray down except on head and wings.
Nest Description

A wide bowl of grasses and sedges, usually taken from near the nest site. Most commonly anchored to emergent vegetation within a meter of water.

Nest Placement




Picks food from water surface or from emergent plants while walking or swimming. Dips head, dabbles, and occasionally dives. Flips floating leaves to take snails clinging to undersides.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Common Gallinule populations decreased between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. These birds are listed as threatened or as a species of special concern in several Midwestern and Northeastern states because of loss of wetland habitat, predation by introduced mammals, and other factors. The Hawaiian Common Gallinule population is on the on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.


Range Map Help

Common Gallinule Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings


Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.