Common Gallinule wing liftCommon Gallinule wing lift – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light

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 Coot starting to flap its wingsAmerican Coot starting to flap its wings – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 500, -1.0 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

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 Gallinule feedingCommon Gallinule feeding – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/500, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Common Gallinules have white stripes on their flanks and extensive white on their undertail coverts.

Feeding CootFeeding Coot – Nikon D200, f9, 1/320, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 314mm, natural light

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)


  1. Utahbooklover February 21, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Wonderful images! I enjoyed this info and the contrasting presentation of the Common Gallinules and American Coots.

  2. Carlotta Grenier February 21, 2017 at 10:09 am

    great images and great article. Thank you for sharing your knowledge

  3. Liz Cormack February 21, 2017 at 7:40 am

    I hope one day to see a Common Gallinule. I can only hope my photos would be half as good as yours.

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