We’ve been fortunate to visit Brazos Bend State Park in Texas a number of times over the years. Apart from the more exotic birds (from a European perspective) there appeared to be plenty of coots and moorhens, just as on most lakes in the UK.
However, the loquacious and overactive ‘moorhens’ did not appear to behave at all like those in UK. Yes this was usually the mating season around March, but surely these were not the same species. A web search shows that they are common gallinules, which were given a separate categorisation from moorhens only in 2011. Their mating behaviour is quite spectacular!
Moorhens are one of our commonest water birds, and indeed are quite common worldwide, under names such as marsh hen or common gallinule. These members of the rail family appear fairly undistinguished, so are not first choice photographic subjects. I’ve tried over the years, but he result is usually not particularly impressive.
Here a strong low afternoon sun brought out the brown colours in the body, which usually appears black.
Their gait is quite ungainly, which does make for an interesting profile when backlit.
Another memorable and beautiful bird from last month’s visit to Brazos Bend Texas State Park was the Purple Gallinule, a member of the rail family. In my experience, the most commonly seen rails, in both US and UK, are the ubiquitous coots and moorhens. But these American gallinules, less often seen, are much more colourful – a superb gradation of shading from white to grey through greens and blues to the deepest shades, completed by the red-yellow beak and yellow legs.
As you can see from the top featured image, they have enormous feet (blurred) that enable standing on water plants and in mud.
The ubiquitous coot is one of the commonest birds in UK, Europe and US, so often does not receive a second glance. But have you ever looked at its feet?
The feet are quite remarkable, not webbed like those of ducks, but sectioned and well suited to walking on soft, uneven surfaces, such as water weeds and mud. Do take a look next time you see a coot out of the water.
Coots are of the family of rails, which includes the similar moorhen.