Thursday, March 14, 2019

Crops & Clips: Moorhen Madness

My first "real" bird book, Roger Tory Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds (1939 printing) called them Florida Gallinules, their popular name for many years. They were also called "Common Moorhens," after the nearly identical Old World species by that name. There was disagreement, not only as to whether they were indeed the same species, but also because there are no "moors" in the New World.

I took my first photo of a "Common Moorhen" in 2008 with my first DSLR camera. Look at those big green feet!:

Common Moorhen 2008_03_30

Peterson was obviously one of those who resisted the name change, still calling it the Florida Gallinule in my well-worn 1947 edition. I liked the exotic sound of its name, even though it was fairly common in the northeastern US and even up into New England:

Peterson Guide Gallinule copyright 1947

The American Ornithological Union changed the species' name to "Common Gallinule" in 1957. Then, in 1983 I had to get accustomed to another name when the AOU officially reverted it to "Common Moorhen," considering it to be a subspecies of the the Old World moorhen. This new name has stuck in my brain ever since, along with other obsolete bird names such as "Sparrow Hawk, Pigeon Hawk, Duck Hawk  and Marsh Hawk." Thank goodness that the names of Wilson's Snipe and Green Heron were restored before I adjusted to their interim titles!

In 2011 the Common Moorhen's name reverted back to  "Common Gallinule" as a full species separate from the Eurasian Moorhen. This name does not fall off my tongue very readily because of this bird's demure appearance as compared to the only "real" one, our Purple Gallinule:

Purple Gallinule 07-20160221

The scientific name for the Common Gallinule also changed from Gallinula chloropus (literally "green-footed chicken") to G. galeata ("helmeted chicken"). 

Members of the rail family, they are year-round residents of Florida. The local population is augmented in winter by migrants from the eastern and central US. They may not mate for life but are very territorial and protective of their nest and mate during breeding season.

While checking on the status of the Wood Stork colony in nearby Weston, Florida...

Wood Stork Rookery COREL 20190308

...I witnessed a confrontation between rival Common Gallinule males. A possessive suitor saw another male with amorous intentions approach his chosen mate and immediately flew in to do battle.

Those big green feet were made for walking on lily pads, but do come in handy during a wrestling match!:

Common Gallinules mix it up 01-20190308

Common Gallinules mix it up 02-20190308

Common Gallinules mix it up 03-20190308

Common Gallinules mix it up 04-20190308

Common Gallinules mix it up 05-20190308

Common Gallinules mix it up 06-20190308

Common Gallinules mix it up 07-20190308

The intruder gave up and was chased away:

Common Gallinules mix it up 08-20190308

Common Gallinules mix it up 09-20190308

The object of their affection seemed disinterested in the action:

Common Gallinule object of affection 20190308

Other sightings at the Wood Stork rookery---

Tricolored Heron in full breeding plumage. Its eyes turn red and bill becomes bright blue:

Tricolored Heron breeding plumage 042-20190308

Tricolored Heron breeding plumage 032-20190308

Back at our local wetlands on a still morning, a Mottled Duck...

Mottled Duck 02-20190301

 ...and a Great Egret reflect:

Great Egret 02-20190301

The Moon and Jupiter preside over a stormy sunrise:

Moon and Jupiter over stormy sunrise 2-20190303
A Prairie Warbler basks in soft morning light:

Prairie Warbler 01-20190301

A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from  Firebush (Hamelia patens) flowers:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2-20190228

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display



  1. some nice shots. Didn't know those hens were so nasty in a bar fight.

  2. Wow, great job on capturing the bird fight. I have never seen anything like that before. And I love the tricolor heron. I have never heard of those before.

  3. Those feet do look huge and thay obviously have a temper as well!! Great photos one and all. Have a good day Diane

  4. What a great series of shots of the fight for the girl! Those feet are huge, and look formidable. I like the moon shot too. Very pretty!

  5. Another wonderful series of shots Kenneth. Glorious Purple hen and spectacular captures of the "wrestling match" ! Thanks for sharing

  6. 20 years ago I lived on a canal in Sunrise, Florida and had lots of these birds to watch. I was told they were moorhens (until I got the name, I called them water chickens because of the chicken feet). I've seen them try to drown the offender who enters their space.

  7. wonderful series of shots with the Moorhen fight and those feet when they are fighting really show the true size of them. Your images with reflections are excellent and I love that Hummingbird. I hope you have a lovely weekend. Keep birding.

  8. super photos of the birds...I have only seen Coots where I live. Love the feet!

  9. beautiful series, i specially like the wrestling match.

  10. There are those who contend, with more than a touch of cynicsm, that this constant changing of common names is done to fuel the publishing industry and the revised field guides thst result from the changes. And this says nothng about taxonomic reassignment and modified scientific names.

  11. Hello, awesome series of birds and photos. I love the reflection captures. I am looking forward to seeing my hummingbirds again. Thanks for linking up and sharing your post today. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend. PS, thanks also for visiting my blog.

  12. Lovely Moorhen shots, and really like the Hummer. Also love that Moon and Jupiter shot.

  13. Wonderful post! The wrestling match is amazing!

  14. Fabulous pictures, especially the reflections!

  15. Thank you for sharing this with us birders at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend! That gallinule series is phenomenal!

  16. That's really cool, seeing the battle. We're still frozen...
    (ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

  17. I love the reflections and the "wrestling match"! :-)

  18. Beautiful photos and I'm glad you explained about the Moorhens. We see them a lot here and I remember being surprised when they came out of the water on LONG legs! lol Enjoy your week!

  19. Great set of pictures - the swirling worlds of taxonomy are hard to follow some days (well, most days!)

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  20. That would be confusing to change (even common ones) the names of birds, ducks, etc. Haha, the wrestling match looked very funny - and you were there to witness it with your camera! Many thanks sharing it for All Seasons to enjoy:) Your photos show so much skill, I never would have guessed your first DSLR was in 2008!
    Sorry your Camellia didn't thrive - the Californian soil must be the perfect combination:)

  21. Terrific series of water birds, Ken! Love the combat images.

    I'm now going to be yelling out "Green-footed Chicken" the rest of the year.

  22. Wow! I wouldn't want to tangle with those feet for sure!
    Thanks for sharing at


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