Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)


French: Gallinule d’Amérique German: Amerikateichhuhn Spanish: Gallineta americana
Other common names: Laughing Moorhen

Crex galeata

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1818,



Until recently treated as conspecific with G. chloropus, but differs in its highly distinctive laughing call#R#R (4); somewhat less yellow on lower mandible (1); slightly higher, more squared-off frontal shield (1); and juvenile with yellower bill and legs and darker smoky-grey face and foreneck (2). Although split accepted here and elsewhere#R (and supported by molecular evidence#R), the constancy of both vocalizations and morphological characters within each species requires verification. Seven subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • G. g. sandvicensis Streets, 1877 – Hawaiian Is.
  • G. g. cachinnans Bangs, 1915 – SE Canada and USA through Central America to W Panama, also Bermuda and Galapagos; N populations winter S to Panama and possibly beyond.
  • G. g. cerceris Bangs, 1910 – Greater and Lesser Antilles.
  • G. g. barbadensis J. Bond, 1954 – Barbados.
  • G. g. pauxilla Bangs, 1915 – E Panama, N & W Colombia, W Ecuador to coastal SW Peru and N Chile#R.
  • G. g. garmani J. A. Allen, 1876 – Andes of Peru, N Chile, Bolivia and NW Argentina.
  • G. g. galeata (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1818) – N Venezuela, Trinidad and the Guianas S through Brazil to N Argentina and Uruguay.
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 35–36 cm; male 370–456 g, female 310–398 g (cachinnans); wingspan c. 53 cm. Medium-sized gallinule, at any distance appearing essentially black... read more


    Wide variety of clucking and chattering calls, sometimes repeated for long periods. Often emits... read more


    Wide range of natural and man-made freshwater wetlands with fringing emergent vegetation, on both... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous and opportunistic. Feeds on earthworms, crustaceans, molluscs, adult and larval insects (especially flies, mayflies, caddisflies... read more


    Breeds Apr–Jun in North America (season 5–6 weeks longer in S than in N), mostly Dec–Jan in Panama, Jul–Sept and in rainy season in Andes;... read more


    In North America most of E population migratory, moving to winter quarters along coast and S to... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Abundant in much of range. Global population estimated to number in excess of 2,000,000 individuals. Widespread and rare to locally... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 11 December 2019).