Common Gallinules and American Coots are both from the Rallidae family and there are some similarities in their appearance, for instance both have a triangular bill with a frontal shield at the top. Both are chicken-like waterbirds that people often mistake for ducks and both have chicks that many people say are rather homely. They both have very large feet compared to the size of the bodies and the primary shade of their plumage is dark.
Common Gallinules have red bills with yellow tips and greenish to yellow legs that have red to orange “garters” at the top. Their feet have no lobes and are not webbed. Adults have dark cinnamon to maroon colored eyes. As adults there are some brown tones on their rumps.
Common Gallinule bills remind me of candy corn.
American Coots have ivory white bills with a dark ring near the tip and a dark frontal shield (normally) and greenish legs. Their feet are lobed but not webbed. As adults American Coots have vibrant red eyes and they have dark gray to black plumage with very limited brown tones for the most part.
Common Gallinules have white stripes on their flanks and extensive white on their undertail coverts.
American Coots do not have white stripes on their flanks and have limited white on their undertail coverts and most of the time the white does not show unless they have their short tails lifted to preen, feeding with their heads underwater, when they are alert or when they are used in a paired display.
American Coots are larger than Common Gallinules in length, wingspan and weight. Both species prefer the same kind of habitat.
I saw plenty of American Coots and Common Gallinules when I lived in Florida but here in Utah I have only seen American Coots. There are many confirmed sightings of Common Gallinules in Utah though so I will keep an eye out for them, it would be nice to see and photograph them again.
The strong wind is howling outside my window this morning and has been since yesterday, it is starting to get to me now. I may be stuck indoors again.
Life is good.
Images taken at:
1. Lake Carillon, Pinellas County, Florida (2009)
2. Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Box Elder County, Utah (2015)
3. Roosevelt Wetland, Pinellas County, Florida (2009)
4. Salt Lake County, Utah (2009)