Common Gallinule

Gallinula galeata




Rails, Gallinules and Coots (Rallidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Buff with red brown or olive spots

Number of Eggs:

2 - 13

Incubation Days:

18 - 21

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

Anchored to vegetation in open water.

Nest Material:

Dead vegetation lined with grass and leaves.


Some migrate



Common Gallinule: Medium-sized, chicken-like marsh bird with gray-brown back and slate-gray head, neck, breast, and belly. Upper flanks show distinct white line. Yellow-tipped red bill is short with red frontal plate extending onto forehead. Tail is white below divided by gray line. Long legs and unwebbed feet are yellow-green. Sexes are similar. Juvenile is paler gray with white throat and gray bill.

Range and Habitat

Common Gallinule: Breeds over much of Midwestern and southern North America through Central America and northern South America. Spends winters from the southern Atlantic states to South America. Prefers habitat with large areas of open water; common near reservoirs, ponds, freshwater marshes, and flooded grasslands.

Breeding and Nesting

Common Gallinule: Two to thirteen buff eggs with red brown or olive spots are laid in a well-rimmed cup nest constructed of dead vegetation and lined with grass and leaves. Nest is usually located over the water and anchored to stems of emergent vegetation, but is occasionally built on the ground or in a low shrub. Both parents incubate the eggs for 18 to 21 days.

Foraging and Feeding

Common Gallinule: Feeds on freshwater plants, seeds, and small invertebrates. Forages while swimming or and walking in shallows or atop floating vegetation; active day and night. Swallows sand and gravel to help grind food.


Common Gallinule: Makes loud, hen-like squeaks, clucks, screams and a single, explosive, frog-like "kup." Advertising call is a loud “krrrruk”, “kurr-ik” or “kark”. Alarm call is a loud “kik-kik” or “cuk”. Durign a variety of displays there is often a musical "kook".

Similar Species

Common Gallinule: American Coot is darker, has pale bill, and lacks white line on flanks.

The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X