Skinny As A Rail? Not Me!

Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans) ©WikiC

Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans) ©WikiC

Skinny as a rail? Not me!

~ James J. S. Johnson

“But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have respect in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.”    (Luke 14:10)

Luzon Bleeding-heart by Dan

Orni-Theology

Is it really advantageous to be frequently noticed?  Is having a “low profile” a prudent practice?  Surely when someone gets a reputation, for being a “show-off”, the spotlight becomes a disadvantage.

When I was a teenager I was called “skinny as a rail”.  Once I arrived at age 20, however, for some reason I stopped hearing that description.  Of course, I blame my weight gain on getting married to a wonderful cook (who, for 3-dozen-plus years, has made eating an ongoing adventure!)!  Actually, I am not too far from being double the weight that I had, 121 pounds, when I got married!

Hmmm – maybe exercise has something to do with it, too.  It’s been a long time since someone said (of me), “he’s so skinny, if he turned sideways we couldn’t see him!”  It is the literal truth that my wife has been with me “through thick and thin”.

But this is supposed to be about birds.

Railway ©WikiC

Railway ©WikiC

So now we should consider something that Robert and Alice Lippson, both ecologists, have to say about being “skinny as a rail”.

“’As thin as a rail’—is it the narrow steel ribbon of a railroad track or the slim boards that make up a fence?  Just where did that old saw come from, anyway?  It pertains to certain members of the Rallidae family, the rails, which also includes coots and gallinules.  The rails have thin, compressed bodies that allow them to thread their way through seemingly impenetrable thickets and literally to disappear into the marsh. … Rails are usually brown and patterned or mottled with white [feathers], while coots are slate or soot colored.  Rails are found in the [Chesapeake] Bay wetlands year-round.”

[Quoting Alice Jane Lippson & Robert L. Lippson, LIFE IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY:   An Illustrated Guide to the Fishes, Invertebrates, Plants, Birds, and Other Inhabitants of the Bays and Inlets from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras, 3rd Edition (Baltimore:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), page 232.]

Perhaps the most prominent rail in the Chesapeake Bay region is the Marsh Hen, also called the “Clapper Rail” (Rallus crepitans, a/k/a Rallus longirostris), known for its harsh-sounding clattering vocalizations [klek-klek-klek-klek-klek] that almost sounds like rattling or rapid clapping.

The Clapper Rail is routinely found in salt marshes and some freshwater marshes on America’s East Coast, from Massachusetts to Florida, plus in wetlands bordering California’s inland Salton Sea, and even along the banks of the lower parts of the Colorado River.  [See John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS, EASTERN REGION, revised edition (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), page 455.]

Have I ever seen one?  Probably not.  But that’s not unusual, according to Lippson & Lippson, who say that hearing one is more likely than seeing one, especially due to their habit of being more active at night.  [Lippson & Lippson, page 232.]  But, if you do see a Clapper Rail, it might not realize you are watching!

Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans) ©WikiC

Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans) ©WikiC

“Clapper rails are secretive birds and are usually not seen unless forced off the reed floor by high tides.  Then they are frequently seen along the edge of the marsh and even along nearby roads.  Even though they are in the open and quite visible, clapper rails apparently think they are still in the marsh, unseen and safe.  Like the least bittern, they are reluctant fliers and when flushed will make brief [airborne] sorties, legs dangling, then drop and disappear into the marsh vegetation.  Curiously enough, rails are capable of making long migratory flights.  The best way to ‘see’ a rail is with your ears:  listen for the clattering “kek-kek-kek”, especially in the early evening and at dawn.  The clapper rail is widely distributed throughout the [Chesapeake] Bay.”  [Quoting Lippson & Lippson, page 232.]

So much for keeping a low profile, especially when perils are near!  If you can be inconspicuous, it’s usually to your advantage, — but, if not, it’s good to have a Plan B (like the Clapper Rail’s getaway response) if you need one.

Meanwhile, don’t forget the lesson of Luke 14:10.  Routinely assume that you should take a “low profile”.  If you are directed “up” (i.e., promoted to a “higher” responsibility), so be it,  —  trusting God to guide you, use the “high profile” opportunity to honor God.  Yet don’t forget: the Clapper Rail strategy has its merits  –  if you are inconspicuous you are less likely to become somebody’s target!

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Rallidae – Rails, Crakes and Coots

Orni-Theology

James J. S. Johnson

Good News

Clapper Rail by Lee at Merritt Island NWR

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Child’s Book of Water Birds ~ The Coot

The Coot

Child's Book of Water Birds - Book Cover

Child’s Book of Water Birds – Book Cover

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Childs Bk of Water Birds titlebird

NEW YORK

LEAVITT & ALLEN.

1855.

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Welcome to the Updated Child’s Book of Water Birds, by Anonymous. It was written in 1855 and this is 2013. That is 158 years ago.
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Childs Bk of Water Birds coot

THE COOT.

The Coot is generally found in large sheets of water, particularly if shaded by trees. The nest is a mass of flags, reeds, and grass, usually at the water’s edge, but sometimes actually in the water. The Coot’s eggs are generally seven in number. They are of a greenish-white, spotted.

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American Coot (Fulica americana) by Lee at Lk Morton

American Coot (Fulica americana) by Lee at Lk Morton

Update:

Coots are medium-sized birds that belong to the Raillidae – Rail Family. There are twelve (12) different Coots around the world.

They have mostly black feathers and can be seen swimming in open water. Coots have prominent frontal shields or other decoration on the forehead, with red to dark red eyes and coloured bills. Many, but not all, have white on the under tail.

Coots eat plants, eggs and some small animals. The defend their nest when they have babies. A group of Coots are called a “covert” or  “cover.”

Like other rails, they have long, lobed toes that are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. Coots have strong legs and can walk and run fast. This video shows their feet.

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See the other five Child’s Book of Water Birds:

The Swan

The Dabchick

The Teal

The Goose

The Oyster Catcher

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Rallidae – Rails, Crakes & Coots Family

American Coot – All About Birds

Bible Birds

Wordless Birds

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Child's Book of Water Birds - Levit and Allen

Back Cover

*** PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CHILD'S BOOK OF WATER BIRDS ***

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Lord Howe Woodhen

Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) by Ian

Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Lord Howe Woodhen ~ By Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 5/11/13

My sister Gillian and I arrived for a week’s visit to Lord Howe Island this morning. I haven’t been here since a visit with my mother on her last trip to Australia in 1992. That was in pre-digital photography days, so I am of course keen to photograph some of the local specialties. Perhaps at the top of the list is the famous flightless Lord Howe Woodhen, saved from probably extinction by a captive breeding program in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We had barely finished unpacking when a pair came past our front door to welcome us to the island.

The bird in the first photo has, like many of the population of 200-300 birds, coloured legs bands to assist in monitoring the population. Its partner, second photo, lacked bands and is naturally more photogenic from a wildlife viewpoint, so I concentrated my efforts on it.

Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) by Ian

Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) by Ian

In the gloom of the Kentia Palm forest that covers much of the lowland of the island, the birds look greyish and are quite difficult to see. When they move into the sunlight, like the one in the third photo that has found fruit from the tree outside our room, the warm chestnut colour of the plumage becomes apparent.

Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) by Ian

Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) by Ian

Woodhens form permanent pair bonds and defend their territories which are several hectares in size. Both these birds are adult, recognisable by their red eyes. With a length of 36 cm/14 in these are largish rails, bigger than the related Buff-banded Rail which is also present on the island (and has also wandered past our room).

Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) by Ian

Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) by Ian

Being flightless, tame and good to eat the population declined seriously after the island was settled and by the 1970s only a few survived on the fairly inaccessible tops of the two tall mountains, Mounts Gower and Lidgbird when some of the birds were captured and bred in a protected enclosure in the lowland area. A fellow postgraduate student of mine at Sydney University in the 1970s, Ben Miller, played a major role in the project. You will be able to read all about it in a book, The Woodhen, due for publication next month by CSIRO Publishing and written by Clifford Frith. See http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/7011.htm. Cliff is also a friend of mine, so I feel quite a strong connection to the Woodhen and am happy to now be able to offer it to you and include photos of it on my website.

Next target is the Providence Petrel, so wish me luck. After its extinction on Norfolk Island – where it was regarded as ‘Provident’ – it survived only on Lord Howe, though a small colony has recently become re-established on Phillip Island off Norfolk.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

… how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! (Luke 13:34b KJV)

Never heard of a Woodhen before. Thanks, Ian, for introducing us to another one of the Lord’s creations. According to my list from IOC, there are only three Woodhens; the Lord Howe, Samoan and Makira Woodhens (The last two seem to be called woodhens only by IOC). They are in the Rallidae – Rails, Crakes & Coots Family. One other bird sometimes refered to as a Woodhen is the Weka.

“The Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) also known as the Lord Howe Island Woodhen or Lord Howe (Island) Rail, is a flightless bird of the rail family (Rallidae). It is endemic to Lord Howe Island off the Australian coast. It is a small olive-brown bird, with a short tail and a down-curved bill. The Lord Howe Island Rail lives in sub-tropical forests, feeding on earthworms, crustaceans, fruit, and taking the eggs of shearwaters and petrels.

Woodhens mate for life and are usually encountered in pairs. They are territorial and will appear from the forest’s understory to investigate the source of any unusual noise. A mated pair will defend an area of approximately 3 hectares, with offspring being expelled from this area once grown. The population of birds is thus restricted by the amount of available territory.

Today there are about 250 birds, which may be the optimal population size for the island. (Wikipedia with editing)

See:

Ian’s Rails and Allies

Rallidae – Rails, Crakes & Coots Family

Lord Howe Woodhen – Wikipedia

Woodhen (Weka)  – Wikipedia

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tasmanian Native-hen

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tasmanian Native-hen ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 2-14-13

The last edition featured the Tasmanian endemic, the Yellow Wattlebird. A former colleague of mine, Gary, who comes from Tasmania, sent me the following recipe from this priceless book by Tasmanian author Marjorie Bligh, and I thought it might interest you, at the risk of putting you off your food.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 1

Marjorie Bligh

Wattle Birds

>“Brush each bird with warm butter after plucking them. (Do not clean birds in any other way; their insides are left intact.) Tie a thin slice of fat bacon over each breast. Put in a fry pan (electric) on a wire grid and cook slowly for 5 to 6 hours. Take off wire grid after 3 to 4 hours and cook in the fat that has dripped off them. Baste often. Serve on buttered toast.”

I Googled Marjorie Bligh and sent this reply to Gary:

Did you know that Marjorie Bligh is the subject of a new book entitled: Housewife Superstar: The Very Best of Marjorie Bligh? She sounds quite a woman.

How’s this for praise:

I don’t think Edna has admired anyone as much as she admires Marjorie Bligh’Barry Humphries

Would you like another Tasmanian endemic for next week’s bird?

Gary, not one to resist throwing down the gauntlet, replied: Yes […] would be especially pleased if you could manage the local endemic sub-species of emu.

Emu

Emu

This ‘restoration’ by John Keulemans was the best I could do as the request arrived about 160 years too late. So, failing that, here is another flightless Tasmanian endemic, the Tasmanian Native-hen.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 3

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian

The bird in the photo is an adult with the characteristic slaty-blue breast, chestnut upper-parts and tail. Unlike the Emu, Tasmanian Native-hens remain quite common in eastern and northern Tasmania where there is plenty of suitable grassy habitat. In pre-historic times they also occurred on the mainland but like the Thylacine and the Tasmanian Devil became extinct relatively recently, perhaps as a result of the introduction of dingos.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 4

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian

They are large – up to 50 cm/20 in in length – flightless members of the family Rallidae (which includes moorhens, coots, rails and crakes). Although they can’t fly, they can swim well and can dive to escape from predators. Like other members of the family, the chicks are black and fluffy and active as soon as they are hatched. The third photo shows a young chick under the watchful eye of an adult, already grazing on the young shoots of grass and herbs that are the staple diet of the species. They also eat seeds, invertebrates and small frogs.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 5

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian

The bird in the fourth photo is a sub-adult, and has not yet achieved the full colouration of adult birds.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 6

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian

I’d always assumed that Native-hens got their name from their appearance. The Wattle Bird recipe has set me wondering whether the name had more to do with taste!

Best wishes,

Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

Of all clean birds you may eat. (Deuteronomy 14:11 AMP)

I guess we could add this bird to the “clean birds,” but not sure about cooking it with all its innards. The Tasmanian Nativehen is a member of the Rallidae – Rails, Crakes & Coots Family. The only other Nativehen is the Black-tailed one. See all of Ian’s Rallidae Family.

I trust you are enjoying the Newsletters that Ian sends out and lets me post here are the blog. He is quite a photographer and does a lot of traveling to find interesting birds to share. Thank you, Ian.

Check out all the Bird of the Week articles by Ian. He lives down in Australia.

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Birdwatching – American Coot

Northern Flicker cropped

Northern Flicker at S. Lake Howard by Lee

Dan and I went birdwatching last week at South Lake Howard Nature Park here in Winter Haven. We just stopped by on the way home from an errand. Captured a Northern Flicker with the camera, but the video is of the Coot’s feet. I have trying to get a photo of them because they are so different from other bird’s feet. Their feet are not webbed, but sort of flattened out. We only see them down here in the winter. See the Wikipedia information below. Apparently it helps them walk on the land, but it seems that a soft soil just under the water would be “squishy” and that may help their footing. Isn’t it neat how the Lord, in Him wisdom, provided for them in such a way.

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. (Psalms 104:24 ESV)

The American Coot (Fulica americana) is a bird of the Rallidae – Rails, Crakes & Coots Family. Though commonly mistaken to be ducks, American Coots come from a distinct family. Unlike ducks, Coots have broad lobes of skin that fold back with each step in order to facilitate walking on dry land. They live near water, typically inhabiting wetlands and open water bodies in North America. Groups of these black-feathered, white-billed birds are called covers or rafts. The oldest known Coot lived to be 22 years old.

The American coot is a migratory bird that occupies most of North American. They live in the Southwestern United States, Mexico, and the pacific coast year round, and only occupy the northeastern regions during the summer breeding season. In the winter they can be found as far south as Panama. They generally build floating nests and lay 8-12 eggs per clutch. American coots eat primarily algae and other aquatic plants but they do eat animals (both vertebrates and invertebrates) when available.

Much research has been done on the breeding habits of American Coots. Studies have found that mothers will preferentially feed offspring with the brightest plume feathers, a characteristic known as chick ornaments. American coots are also susceptible to conspecific brood parasitism, and identify which offspring are theirs and which are from parasitic females.

The American Coot measures 13–17 in (34–43 cm) in length and 23–28 in (58–71 cm) across the wings. Adults have a short thick white bill and white frontal shield, which usually has a reddish-brown spot near the top of the bill between the eyes. Males and females look alike, but females are smaller. Juvenile birds have olive-brown crowns and a gray body. They become adult-colored around 4 months of age

The American Coot has a variety of repeated calls and sounds. Male and female Coots make different types of calls to similar situations. Male alarm calls are “puhlk” while female alarm calls are “poonk”. Also, stressed males go “puhk-cowah” or “pow-ur” while females call “cooah”

See the Sounds page of All About Birds for the American Coot.

American Coots are found near water—reed-ringed lakes and ponds, open marshes, and sluggish rivers. They prefer freshwater environments, but may temporarily live in saltwater environments during the winter months.

The American Coot’s breeding habitat extends from marshes in southern Quebec to the Pacific coast of North America and as far south as northern South America. Birds from temperate North America east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to the southern United States and southern British Columbia. It is often a year-round resident where water remains open in winter. The number of birds that stay year-round near the northern limit of the species’ range seems to be increasing.

Autumn migration occurs from August to December, with males and non-breeders moving south before the females and juveniles. Spring migration to breeding ranges occurs from large February to mid-May, with males and older birds moving North first. There has been evidence of birds travelling as far north as Greenland and Iceland. It is a rare but regular vagrant to Europe. The American Coot is a highly gregarious species, particularly in the winter, when its flocks can number in the thousands. The picture below is just of one group of hundreds at Viera Wetlands that day (2012)

American Coot (Fulica americana) at Viera Wetlands by Lee

American Coot (Fulica americana) at Viera Wetlands by Lee

The American Coot can dive for food but can also forage and scavenge on land. It is omnivorous, eating plant material, arthropods, fish, and other aquatic animals. Its principal source of food is aquatic vegetation, especially algae. During breeding season, Coots are more likely to eat aquatic insects and mollusks—which constitute the majority of a chick’s diet.

The American Coot is a prolific builder and will create multiple structures during a single breeding season. It nests in well-concealed locations in tall reeds. There are three general types of structures: display platforms, egg nests and brood nests. Egg nests are typically 12 inches in diameter with a 12-15 inch ramp that allows the parents to enter and exit without tearing the sides of the nests. Coots will often build multiple egg nests before selecting one to lay their eggs in. Brood nests are nests that are either newly constructed or have simply been converted from old egg nests after the eggs hatch. They are simply larger egg nests. Egg and brood nests are actually elaborate rafts, and must be constantly added to in order to stay afloat. Females typically do the most work while building.

Females deposit one egg a day until the clutch is complete. Eggs are usually deposited between sunset and midnight. Typically, early season and first clutches average two more eggs than second nesting and late season clutches. Early season nests see an average of 9.0 eggs per clutch while late clutches see an average of 6.4 eggs per clutch. There is an inverse relationship between egg weights and laying sequence, wherein earlier eggs are larger than eggs laid later in the sequence. It is possible to induce a female Coot to lay more eggs than normal by either removing all or part of her clutch. Sometimes, a female may abandon the clutch if enough eggs are removed. Coots, however, do not respond to experimental addition of eggs by laying fewer eggs.

Incubation start time in the American Coot is variable, and can begin anywhere from the deposition of the first egg to after the clutch is fully deposited. Starting incubation before the entire clutch has been laid is an uncommon practice among birds. Once incubation starts it continues without interruption. Male and female Coots share incubation responsibility, but males do most of the work during the 21-day incubation period. Females will begin to re-nest clutches in an average of six days if clutches are destroyed during incubation.

Hatch order usually follows the same sequence as laying order. Regardless of clutch size, eight is the typical maximum size of a brood. Egg desertion is a frequent occurrence among Coots because females will often deposit more than eight eggs. Brood size limits incubation time, and when a certain number of chicks have hatched the remaining eggs are abandoned. The mechanism for egg abandonment has not yet been discovered. Food resource constraints may limit the number of eggs parents let hatch, or the remaining eggs may not provide enough visual or tactile stimulation to elicit incubation behavior. An American Coot can be forced to hatch more eggs than are normally laid. These additional offspring, however, suffer higher mortality rates due to inadequacy in brooding or feeding ability.

American Coot (Fulica americana) by Lee at Lk Morton

American Coot (Fulica americana) by Lee at Lk Morton

The American Coot, unlike other parasitized species, has the ability to recognize and reject conspecific parasitic chicks from their brood. Parents aggressively reject parasite chicks by pecking them vigorously, drowning them, preventing them from entering the nest, etc. They learn to recognize their own chicks by imprinting on cues from the first chick that hatches. The first-hatched chick is a reference to which parents discriminate between later-hatched chicks. Chicks that do not match the imprinted cues are then recognized as parasite chicks and are rejected.

Chick recognition reduces the costs associated with parasitism, and Coots are one of only three bird species in which this behavior has been observed. This is because hatching order is predictable in parasitized Coots—host eggs will reliably hatch before parasite eggs. In other species where hatching order is not as reliable, there is a risk of misimprinting on a parasite chick first and then rejecting their own chicks. In these species, the cost of accidentally misimprinting is greater than the benefits of rejecting parasite chicks.

The first evidence for parental selection of exaggerated, ornamental traits in offspring was found in American Coots. Black American Coot chicks have conspicuously orange-tipped ornamental plumes covering the front half of their body that are known as “chick ornaments” that eventually get bleached out after six days. This brightly colored, exaggerated trait makes Coot chicks more susceptible to predation and does not aid in thermoregulation, but remains selected for by parental choice. These plumes are not necessary for chick viability, but increased chick ornamentation increases the likelihood that a chick will be chosen as a favorite by the parents. Experimental manipulation of chick ornamentation by clipping the bright plumes have shown that parents show clear preferences for ornamented chicks over non-ornamented ones.

The American Coot is fairly aggressive in defense of its eggs and, in combination with their protected nesting habitat, undoubtedly helps reduce losses of eggs and young to all but the most determined and effective predators. American Crows, Black-billed Magpies and Forster’s Tern can sometime take eggs. Mammalian predators (including red foxes, coyotes, skunks and raccoons) are even less likely to predate coot nests, though nests are regularly destroyed in usurpation by muskrats. Conversely, the bold behavior of immature and adult coots leads to them falling prey with relative regularity once out of the breeding season. Regular, non-nesting-season predators include Great Horned Owls, Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, American alligators, bobcats, Great Black-backed and California Gulls. In fact, Coots may locally comprise more than 80% of the Bald Eagle diet.

In culture – On the Louisiana coast, the Cajun word for coot is pouldeau, from French for “coot”, poule d’eau – literally “water hen”. Coot can be used for cooking; it is somewhat popular in Cajun cuisine, for instance as an ingredient for gumbos cooked at home by duck hunters.

(From Wikipedia and All About Birds with editing)

See also:

Birdwatching Trips

Rallidae – Rails, Crakes & Coots Family

American Coot – What Bird

American Coot – All About Birds

American Coot – Wikipedia

Birds of the World

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Birds of the Bible – Water-hen or Water hen

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) by Nikhil Devasar

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) by Nikhil Devasar

Leviticus 11:18
(BBE) And the water-hen and the pelican and the vulture;
(ERV) water hens, pelicans, carrion vultures,
(ISV) water-hen, pelican, carrion,
(MSG)  water hen, pelican, Egyptian vulture,
(NRSV) the water hen, the desert owl, the carrion vulture,

(ABP+) and the purple-legged stork, and pelican, and swan
CAB(i) 18 and the red-bill, and the pelican, and swan,
(Brenton) and the red-bill, and the pelican, and swan,
(Bishops) The Backe, the Pellicane, the Pye,

(Geneva) Also the redshanke and the pelicane, and the swanne:
(Vulgate) si ambulans per viam in arbore vel in terra nidum avis inveneris et matrem pullis vel ovis desuper incubantem non tenebis eam cum filiis
(KJV) And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,
Deuteronomy 14:16
(BBE) The little owl and the great owl and the water-hen;

(Bishops) The litle Owle, the great Owle, nor the Redshanke.
(Geneva) Neither the litle owle, nor the great owle, nor the redshanke,
(KJV)  The little owl, and the great owl,  and the swan,
(Vulgate) herodium et cycnum et ibin

Adam Clarke’s Commentary: “The swan – תנשמת tinshemeth. The Septuagint translate the word by πορφυριωνα, the porphyrion, purple or scarlet bird. Could we depend on this translation, we might suppose the flamingo or some such bird to be intended. Some suppose the goose to be meant, but this is by no means likely, as it cannot be classed either among ravenous or unclean fowls. Bochart thinks the owl is meant.”

Companion Bible Notes: “swan, not our swan: it is variously rendered “ibis”, “heron”, and “pelican”.

Gill: “Leviticus 11:18
And the swan,…. This is a bird well known to us, but it is a question whether it is intended by the word here used; for though it is so rendered in the Vulgate Latin, it is differently rendered by many others: the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem call it “otia”, which seems to be the same with the “otus” of Aristotle (n), who says it is like an owl, having a tuft of feathers about its ears (from whence it has its name); and some call it “nycticorax”, or the owl; and here, by Bochart (o), and others, the owl called “noctua” is thought to be meant; and with which agrees the account some Jewish writers give of it, as Aben Ezra and Baal Hatturim, who say it is a bird, which every one that sees is astonished at it, as other birds are at the owl, are frightened at the sight of it, and stupefied. But as the same word is used Lev_11:30 among the creeping things, for a mole, what Jarchi observes is worthy of consideration, that this is “calve (chauve) souris” (the French word for a bat), and is like unto a mouse, and flies in the night; and that which is spoken of among the creeping things is like unto it, which hath no eyes, and they call it “talpa”, a mole. The Septuagint version renders it by “porphyrion”, the redshank; and so Ainsworth; and is thought to be called by the Hebrew name in the text, from the blowing of its breath in drinking; for it drinks biting, as Aristotle says (p):”

Jamieson Fausset Brown: the swan — found in great numbers in all the countries of the Levant. It frequents marshy places – the vicinity of rivers and lakes. It was held sacred by the Egyptians, and kept tame within the precincts of heathen temples. It was probably on this account chiefly that its use as food was prohibited. Michaelis considers it the goose.
McGee:
Leviticus 11:13-19

CLEAN AND UNCLEAN FLYING CREATURES (IN THE AIR)
On the birds there are no visible markers like there are on the fish and the animals. But they seem to have in common that they are all unclean feeders. For the most part, they feed on dead carcasses of animals, fish, and other fowl.

A list of unclean birds of Palestine is given. This is another point that reveals that the Mosaic system was intended for the nation Israel and also for the particular land of Palestine. Some of these birds sound strange to us. They fall into the family of the eagles and the hawks, the vultures and the ravens, the owls and cormorants, and the swans and pelicans. They don’t even sound appetizing. They are the “dirty birdies” because of their feeding habits. Now remember, some people eat some of these birds today. I can’t say I would like any of them, but whether we eat them or don’t eat them makes no difference—meat will not commend us to God. The point is that it was teaching Israel to make a distinction. They had to make a decision about what was clean and unclean.

The lesson for us today is that we must make decisions about our conduct and our profession. We have to make the decision about whether to accept Christ or not, whether to study the Word of God or not, whether to walk in a way pleasing to God or not. That is the application for us today.

This section throws some light on the experience of Elijah. He was fed by the ravens—dirty birds. Elijah did not eat the ravens, but they fed him. This was a humbling experience for this man of God who obeyed God in every detail.

MHCC:
Leviticus 11:1-47

These laws seem to have been intended, 1. As a test of the people’s obedience, as Adam was forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge; and to teach them self-denial, and the government of their appetites. 2. To keep the Israelites distinct from other nations. Many also of these forbidden animals were objects of superstition and idolatry to the heathen. 3. The people were taught to make distinctions between the holy and unholy in their companions and intimate connexions. 4. The law forbad, not only the eating of the unclean beasts, but the touching of them. Those who would be kept from any sin, must be careful to avoid all temptations to it, or coming near it. The exceptions are very minute, and all were designed to call forth constant care and exactness in their obedience; and to teach us to obey. Whilst we enjoy our Christian liberty, and are free from such burdensome observances, we must be careful not to abuse our liberty. For the Lord hath redeemed and called his people, that they may be holy, even as he is holy. We must come out, and be separate from the world; we must leave the company of the ungodly, and all needless connexions with those who are dead in sin; we must be zealous of good works devoted followers of God, and companions of his people.

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Well, those are some of the remarks by the different commentaries. It seems there is no real set answer as to whether the Waterhen or Water-hen was the intended bird. The list of Unclean and Clean birds was for the Israelites and not us today. It is not even for them today. Why write about them, because it is interesting. To me, it comes down to a decision on their part and ours today whether we want to obey the Word of God.

….for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. (Deuteronomy 13:3-4 NKJV)

Most of the birds seem to have a diet that would cause eating that bird to make people sick or to die. Not all of them are in that category. It could be that they were not to eat a specific bird because they were few in number at that time and it could have caused them to go extinct. (That happens today.) It comes to obedience. That said, let’s see what a Water Hen really is.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) by Lee

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) by Lee

Water-hen or Waterhens are in the Rallidae – Rails, Crakes & Coots Family. According to Wikipedia’s article on the Waterhen:

Waterhen may refer to any of the following:

Black Crake (Amaurornis flavirostra) ©WikiC

Black Crake (Amaurornis flavirostra) ©WikiC

The adult Black Crake is 19–23 cm long with a short tail and long toes. As its name implies, the adult has mainly black plumage, with a brown olive tone on the wings and upperparts which is rarely detectable in the field. The eye is red, the bill is yellow, and the legs and feet are red, duller when not breeding.

The sexes are similar, but the male is slightly larger. Most males, but only 10% of females, have a hooked upper mandible. The immature bird has brown upperparts and a dark grey head and underparts. Its bill is greenish yellow, and its feet and legs are dull red. The downy chicks are black, as with all rails.

The Black Crake is extremely aggressive when breeding and will attack birds of many species, but especially other rails. It will attack and kill rails of species as large as itself.

The nest is a deep neat bowl made from wetland plants and built by both sexes in marsh vegetation or on the ground in a dry location. The nest is also sometimes constructed up to 3 m high in a bush.

If it was a Redshank(e), then we have a completely different bird in a different family, the Scolopacidae – Sandpipers, Snipes. If so, that would mean I would have to make yet another “Bird of the Bible” category. Humm!

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) ©WikiC

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) ©WikiC

Of the three last bird pictures here, they do all have something red. The Moorhen has a red beak and the other two have red legs. You realize that these names are today’s name. They do change over the years. What ever bird this verse applies to, it has been enjoyable for me to investigate it. It has caused me to be in God’s Word, search the Commentaries, and check out the many birds the Lord created. And I trust you have benefited from it also and you might even dig around and find more about these verses.

And I get to add another Bird of the Bible page.

Birds of the Bible – Waterhen

All Birds of the Bible articles.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spotless Crake

Spotless Crake (Porzana tabuensis) by Ian

Spotless Crake (Porzana tabuensis) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spotless Crake ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 10/11/11

There’s no doubt as to what is currently the Bird of the Week in Townsville: the discovery of this Spotless Crake in a small patch of reedy grass beside Ross River just below Aplin’s Weir is causing great excitement. They’re rare here and the birder who circulated the news, thank you Marlene, could find only 5 records in Townsville since 1994, the last one being in 2000. Not having photographed one before, I got up at 5:40am this morning to have a second attempt at photographing it (it wasn’t very cooperative yesterday afternoon) and there was universal agreement that this was a noteworthy event as I’m famously not an early riser.

Spotless Crake (Porzana tabuensis) by Ian

Spotless Crake (Porzana tabuensis) by Ian

In fact, the Crake wasn’t very cooperative this morning either, making only 3 brief appearances between 6:30 and 9:00am, really brief with the longest period between the first and last photo in a session being 6 seconds. It was definitely a question of using a tripod mounted camera focussed on its chosen spot. If you compare the first and second photos, taken 40 minutes apart, and look for the semicircular reed stem sticking out of the water near its bill, you’ll see that it was in almost exactly the same place on both occasions.
If you look in the background, you can see an out-of-focus and much larger Buff-banded Rail that was around at the same time, but completely overshadowed by its rarer cousin. The rail was much more forthcoming, and regularly paraded in full view to have its photo taken (at the risk of missing an appearance by the real star) as in the third photo.
Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis) by Ian

Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis) by Ian

For comparison Spotless Crakes are 17-20cm/6.7-8in in length, while Buff-banded Rails are 28-33cm/11-13in. The names ‘crake’ and ‘rail’ are used taxonomically somewhat indiscriminately for these small secretive members of the Rallidae. For example, the Hawaiian and St Helena Rails belong to the same genus as most of the Australian Crakes (Porzanus). Still on names, it’s very unusual for birds to be named after features they lack, such as spots. In the Birdlife International list of birds of the world, about 10,000 species, I could find only 9 that are something-less: 2 are crestless, 3 are flightless, 2 are spotless and, prizewinner for strange names, the Northern and Southern Beardless Tyrannulets. I didn’t count Restless Flycatcher and the other spotless is the Spotless Starling.

Best wishes
Ian


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Sounds like Ian’s Spotless Crake was the talk of the town, at least of the birder’s. I love the way Ian shows so much patience while he is out birdwatching. Most of us would give up and miss these neat photos. Thanks, Ian, for your patience.

That second bird, the Buff-banded Rail, is also a resident at the Lowry Park Zoo. I have been privileged of see it on vary rare occasions. The bird was hidden very well.

But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. (Romans 8:25 KJV)

Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis) by Lee at Lowry Pk Zoo

Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis) by Lee at Lowry Pk Zoo

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Baillon’s Crake

Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Baillon’s Crake ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 6/27/11

My apologies for a belated bird of the week. This week’s bird is the subject of some excitement at the moment in local birding circles with the reporting of unusual numbers of Baillon’s Crake (thank you Len and Chris!) at a small wetland at Pentland about 240km southwest of Townsville. So, I and some friends spent the weekend there. to have a look for this elusive species, uncommon in this part of the country.

Baillon’s, with a length of 15-18cm/6-7in is the smallest member of its family (Rallidae) found in Australia and not much larger than a house sparrow. Members of this species are particularly secretive even by crake standards usually preferring to skulk in reed beds and other aquatic vegetation, but sometimes venture out into the open in dull weather to feed though rarely as freely in sunshine as the ones at Pentland, as in the first photo. This bird is probably a female as HBW (Handbook of Birds of the World, which like many ‘handbooks’ needs a crane to lift it) reports that females have a rufous patch behind the eye.
Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

By that criterion, the bird on the lily pad in the second photo is a male with a completely grey cheek. It is also showing the long, rather jacana-like toes that enable it to walk over aquatic vegetation, both floating and submerged, though they will swim if necessary. They seemed reluctant to fly, but would do so to chase other birds that appeared to be encroaching on their patch.

Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

The third photo shows a bird snatching an invertebrate, maybe a small spider, off a blade of grass and stretching out its neck to full extent to do so. They would also pluck prey from under the surface and I watched one that appeared to be eating a mollusc. The fourth photo shows one peering intently at the water but its debatable whether it’s looking for dinner or, Narcissus-like, admiring its reflection (even if it is a female) while its lily pad sinks unnoticed below the surface – Baillon’s Crakes weigh about 35 g, a little over an ounce.

Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

I think the bird in the fifth photo is a juvenile. The iris is brownish rather than red, the legs and bill are browner than in the adults and the underparts are buffish white, rather than grey.

Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) by Ian

Although Crakes in general appear reluctant to fly, they can do so well and over long distances, probably at night. They move around according to the availability of water (the wetland at Pentland sometimes dries out completely) and there is some evidence that Baillon’s Crakes move north in winter in Australia. It also has a wide distribution throughout Eurasia and Africa and a summer visitor in Europe. A separate race is found in New Zealand, it has been recorded on Macquarie Island, and a closely related species, now extinct, used to occur on Laysan Island between Midway Islands and Hawaii.

Incidentally, the smallest member of the family is the Inaccessible Rail found on Inaccessible Island in the Tristan Da Cunha Group with a length of 13-15.5 cm. Furthermore it the smallest flightless bird in the world, but, not having therefore to worry about its waistline, it is, at 40 g, heaver than Baillon’s Crake.
Best wishes,
Ian


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Baillons are part of the Rails, Crakes & Coots – Rallidae Family of the Gruiformes Order. The Crake is in the same family as our Purple Gallinules, Common Gallinules or Moorhens and the American Coots we see often. We have Rails (Black, Clapper, King, Virginia, and Yellow) and the Sora here in Florida, but I never seem to spot them. The birds here are much larger than Ian just described. Would love to see one of them.

The most typical family members occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps, or rivers. Reed beds are a particularly favoured habitat. They are omnivorous, and those that migrate do so at night: most nest in dense vegetation. In general, they are shy and secretive birds, and are difficult to observe.

Most species walk and run vigorously on strong legs, and have long toes which are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and although they are generally weak fliers, they are, nevertheless, capable of covering long distances.

Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh? Can the reeds flourish without water? While it is yet green and not cut down, It withers before any other plant. So are the paths of all who forget God; (Job 8:11-13a NKJV)

See more of Ian’s Bird of the Week articles.
Family #46 – Rallidae

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Sora

Sora (Porzana carolina) by Ian

Sora (Porzana carolina) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Sora (#382) ~ By Ian Montgomery

Newsletter (#382)  – 09-29-10

Any birds that are a challenge to see exert a particular fascination. This includes all the night birds – owls, nightjars, etc – and all the skulkers and lurkers. We had a classic skulker, the American Bittern, a couple of weeks ago, and the crakes and rails belong in the same category and the same habitat. In Australia, I’ve never seen a Lewin’s Rail and I’ve never photographed a Spotless Crake. Here in the US, the Clapper Rails at the Baylands Park at Palo Alto are giving me a hard time too, but the Sora, a crake, and the Virginia Rail have been more obliging.

The Sora (Porzana carolina) is very close related to the Australian Spotted Crake (Porzana fluminea) and looks very similar, but lacks the Moorhen-like red spot on the bill. They both live in reedbeds but will sometimes come out into the open to feed, particularly in the evening and when water levels are low, as they are here now in California at the end of a dry summer.

Sora (Porzana carolina) by Ian

Sora (Porzana carolina) by Ian

I’ve recently visited a park in the hills above San Jose three times looking without success for Golden Eagles, but each time I’ve seen a Sora and twice a Virginia Rail as well. In fact, the bird in the first photo came out into the sunshine to feed on the edge of the reed when we – my sister is here now – were watching for a less cooperative Virginia Rail, that was making a lot of noise. All the crakes and rails have very distinctive, loud calls, so presumably they, like the bittern, have trouble seeing each other too.

Both species are widespread throughout the United Sates and southern Canada, so there’s probably a cautionary tale here about naming species after places, such as Virginia or carolina, though I’m presuming that they weren’t named after people. Both migrate, so crakes and rails will fly quite long distances if they have to – usually at night – and turn up in odd places. Some, like the Buff-banded Rail, widespread in Australia also occurs on coral islands on the Barrier Reef and in the South Pacific, where, with nowhere to hide, it can become quite tame. Others like the Lord Howe Island Woodhen, have gone to the skulking extreme and lost the ability to fly.

Links:

Sora
Australian Spotted Crake
Virginia Rail
Buff-banded Rail

Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Well, Ian does it again! I saw a Sora once years ago and still haven’t been able to spot one again here in Central Florida. Ours hide a little more than the one he found. :)

I am glad that he is being successful out there in California. If I was envious, I would be upset, but I am not. I’ll just keep looking.

At any rate, the Sora is part of the Rallidae Family of Rails, Crakes & Coots. There are 131 species in the family. The Rallidaes keep company with the Flufftails, Finfoots, Trumpeters, Cranes and Limpkins who are also in the Gruiformes Order.

The Sora’s breeding habitat is marshes throughout much of North America. They nest in a well-concealed location in dense vegetation. The female usually lays 10 to 12 eggs, sometimes as many as 18, in a cup built from marsh vegetation. The eggs do not all hatch together. Both parents incubate and feed the young, who leave the nest soon after they hatch and are able to fly within a month. (Wikipedia)

Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh? Can the reeds flourish without water? While it is yet green and not cut down, It withers before any other plant. So are the paths of all who forget God; … (Job 8:11-13a NKJV)

The Purple Gallinule – The Awkward Beauty!

The Purple Gallinule – The Awkward Beauty! ~ by A J Mithra

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica) by Densie Russell

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica) by Denise Russell

The beautifully colored Purple Gallinule is often known as a ‘swamp hen’. The scientific name is Porphyrio martinica. The Purple Gallinule belongs to the rail (Rallidae) family of birds.

Almost without exception, rails frequent freshwater wetlands such as swamps and marshes. Preferred habitats include lakes, pools, waterways, and wet marshes.

These birds look so beautiful…
Is it because, they prefer to live by the waters?
When we live by the Living Waters we too shall turn beautiful like the Rose of Sharon and the Lilly of the Valley…
After all, GOD created us in HIS own image… Isn’t it?
Remember how Moses’ face shone after his forty day communion with GOD?

Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. (Isaiah 52: 1)

These birds are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of seeds, leaves and fruits. Insects, frogs, small fish, snails are earthworms are all eaten with relish. It will also steal eggs and eat young ducklings if it gets the opportunity.

The long toes prevent the bird from sinking when walking on floating vegetation or on water-lilies. The toes can also be used to grasp food and it may then use its feet to carry food to the mouth.
The legs are strong and the gallinule can run well on land….

What kind of feet did GOD give us?

He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places. (2 Samuel22:34)
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.” (Psalm 91:13)

Not only that,

Then shall the lame man leap as an hart,……..” (Isaiah 35:6)

Purple Gallinule by Lee at Lake Hollingsworth

Purple Gallinule by Lee at Lake Hollingsworth

The eggs are laid in a platform or pad constructed of trampled reeds, leaves and grasses. The pad is often situated on a floating ‘island’ of debris in a clump of saw grass or in a secluded thicket. Both parents share the incubation and care of the chicks.

The parents have a ritual which is performed whenever one takes over incubation duties from the other. The incoming bird brings the gift of a leaf to its partner. The bird on the nest takes the leaf and adds it to the nest. It then relinquishes duties to its mate.

GOD has chosen us to finish the good work which HE started when HE was in this earth…

The incoming bird brings the gift of a leaf to its mate…
Fresh Leaf denotes new life..
JESUS gave us a fresh lease of life by giving HIS life on the cross…

Now it is our turn to take up HS duty to reach the unreached till HE returns as KING of kings..

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans(6:23)

The Purple Gallinule is essentially a tropical marsh bird that just makes its way into the United States. But some go even farther afield. It has even been found numerous times in Europe and South Africa.
There has even been the occasional American Purple Gallinule turn up in Western Europe.

Framed Purple Gallinule by Dan

Framed Purple Gallinule by Dan

Although it looks quite clumsy in the air, flying as it does with the legs dangling, it nonetheless can cover quite long distances. The Purple Gallinule, despite appearing to be an awkward flier, regularly turns up in northern states and southern Canada. It has even been found numerous times in Europe and South Africa…

People may call us by nicknames but GOD had called us by name…

You may be called clumsy or awkward, but, GOD calls you as HIS crown and a royal diadem…
If JESUS becomes your strength, you will never be weak..
If JESUS becomes your wisdom, you will never be a fool..

These birds may be awkward fliers, but still GOD is able to take them to far off places..

GOD doesn’t judge you by your quality but by your availability…
Are you available for JESUS? 24 x 7?

My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies” (Song of Solomon 2:16)

Note: Photograph by Denise Russell

Have a blessed day!

Your’s in YESHUA,
A J Mithra

Please visit us at: Crosstree


Lee’s Addition:
The Purple Gallinule is one of our favorites here in Florida. We see them quite frequently. They can be little beggars when we are feeding the birds at Lake Hollingsworth. They are in the Rails, Crakes, and Coots – Rallidae Family of the Gruiformes Order which also includes Cranes, Flufftails, Finfoots, Trumpeters and Limpkins.

Purple Gallinule walking around on vegetation at Lake Hollingsworth by Lee