GRUIFORMES of Europe

The order Gruiformes contains a considerable number of living and extinct bird families with little in common. In fact, birds have been placed in this order just because it was not clear where else to put them! The rails, cranes, and limpkin are related and are considered part of the true Guiformes. However, the Bustards are unrelated to these true Guiformes.



Coots, Moorhens

Order Gruiformes    Family Rallidae


The coots and moorhens of the Railidae family generally occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps, or rivers. They are omnivores. Most nest in dense vegetation. Most species walk and run vigorously on strong legs, and have long toes which are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. Some coots and gallinules have a "frontal shield", which is a fleshy rearward extension of the upper bill. The flight of those Rallidae able to fly, while not very powerful, can be sustained for long periods of time and many species undertake annual migrations.


Genus Fulica
Coots have prominent frontal shields or other decoration on the forehead, with red to dark red eyes.. Many, but not all, have white on the under tail. They have long, lobed toes that are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. Coots have strong legs and can walk and run vigorously. They tend to have short, rounded wings and are weak fliers, though northern species nevertheless can cover long distances.

Coot, Eurasian also Coot Fulica atra   Found: Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand
The Eurasian Coot has black plumage; white frontal shield, bill.
Similar to: Red-knobbed Coot. Red-knobbed Coot has red knobs at top of shield during breeding season; Eurasian Coot does not. Eurasian Coot has pure white bill; Red-knobbed Coot has bill with bluish-gray tinge.
Image by: 1, 2, 3, 4) Dick Daniels - England


Coot, Red-knobbed Fulica cristata   Found: southern Europe, Africa
The Red-knobbed Coot has black plumage; white frontal shield; red knobs at top of shield during breeding seasons; whitish bill with blue-gray tinge.
Similar to: Eurasian Coot. Red-knobbed Coot has red knobs at top of shield during breeding season; Eurasian Coot does not. Eurasian Coot has pure white bill; Red-knobbed Coot has bill with bluish-gray tinge.
Image by: 1, 2) Dick Daniels - World of Birds - South Africa  3) Craig Adam -South Africa  4) Shankar S - Kenya



Genus Gallinula

Moorhen, Eurasian Gallinula chloropus chloropus   Found: Europe, Asia
The Eurasian Moorhen dark plumage with white under  the tail; yellow legs; red frontal shield.
Similar to: Purple Swamphen. Purple Swamphen has purple breast; Eurasian Moorhen has dark breast.
Image by:  1, 2) Dick - England   3)  Valter Jacinto - Portugal
1) Chick



Genus Porphyrio
Porphyrio contains the gallinules and swamphens.

Swamphen, Purple  also Pukeko Porphyrio porphyrio   Found: Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia, introduced - Florida
There are many subspecies. Shown below: 1 - 6) P. p. bellus  7) P. p. madagascariensis 8) P. p. poliocephalus.
The European Swamphen are overall purple-blue; African and south Asia birds have a green back;  Australasian and Indonesian have black backs and heads. All have red bills and frontal shields.
Similar to: Eurasian Moorhen. Purple Swamphen has purple breast; Eurasian Moorhen has dark breast.
Image by:  1, 2) Richard Taylor - Australia  3, 4, 5) Dick Daniels - Australia    6, 8) JJ Harrison - Australia  7) Craig Adam - South Africa
1) Juvenile  7) P. p. poliocephalus





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