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Common Gallinule


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The most widely distributed member of the rail family, the Common Gallinule inhabits marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile, from northern Europe to southern Africa, and across Asia to the Pacific. Vocal and boldly marked, the species can be quite conspicuous, sometimes using its long toes to walk atop floating vegetation.

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.
  • Twelve subspecies of the Common Gallinule are recognized from around the world, most differing only in size or brightness of plumage. One subspecies 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
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