Sunday: Faux Duck o’ the Week

Today we have installment #2 of John Avise‘s new series on “faux ducks”: those species that many people think are ducks, but which aren’t ducks. You still have to guess the species, even though you know it isn’t a duck. The answer, some fun Faux Duck facts, and a range map are below the fold. John’s words are indented:

We continue our series of “faux ducks” with another common waterbird species that some people might otherwise confuse with true ducks in the family Anatidae.

Breeding adult swimming:

Breeding adult standing:

Breeding adult pair.

Breeding (right) and non-breeding (left) conditions

Non-breeding adult standing

Juvenile swimming:

Juvenile standing:


Comparison with American coot:

Click on “read more” to see the ID, faux duck facts, and a range map.

ID: Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata):

Residing in the family Rallidae, this charcoal-plumaged species is a cousin of the American Coot (see last week’s post), and looks much like the latter, except that its bill (and frontal shield) are mostly bright red rather than mainly white as in the Coot.  Also, the long and slender toes of Gallinules are well suited for walking (e.g., on lily-pads) and lack the lobate webbing that the Coots display.  These birds nonetheless often swim, albeit rather weakly.  The Common Gallinule of the Americas was recently taxonomically split from the Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) of Europe (these two had formerly been considered conspecific).   This species shows no sexual dimorphism and breeding adults are simply more brightly colored than the non-breeding adults and juveniles (see photos). Basket nests are built of dense vegetation and typically contain about 6-8 eggs per brood.

A range map from the Cornell site:



  1. chrism
    Posted October 25, 2020 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Send more moorhens!

  2. Serendipitydawg
    Posted October 25, 2020 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Definitely Coots in halloween masks 😀

    Thanks John.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 25, 2020 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      The snout does resemble a candy corn.

  3. Frank Bath
    Posted October 25, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    They look much like the moorhens we have in the UK. Very common here in parks and rivers.

    • Dom
      Posted October 25, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      I had no idea they were previously considered conspecific.

      Gallinules are common island colonisers, forming non-flying species when they end up on islands..

  4. Posted October 25, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Very interesting. I was thinking coot.

  5. jezgrove
    Posted October 25, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I’m doing better on the faux ducks. I got coot last week and I’m generously allowing myself moorhen, given that it was only “recently taxonomically split”!

    • Posted October 25, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Jolly well done!
      Though I thought everyone could distinguish a duck from a moorhen or coot – they look nothing like ducks! And they are so widespread, everyone should see them, even in urban parks with lakes.

  6. Charlie Jones
    Posted October 25, 2020 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I do appreciate all of these photos of ducks and duck-like birds. A gallinule counts as a rare bird around Pittsburgh, alas!

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