Common Gallinule – An Unexpected Find

I had several things to post about this weekend’s birding but I’ll just cover the last bird of the weekend in this post. A surprise COMMON GALLINULE.

If someone a month ago would have told me I would have had two Rallidaes as my next county birds, I wouldn’t have believed them. But that’s the case having Virginia Rails last week and a Common Gallinule this week. I have been working on the Virginia Rails since locating several spots with Soras. I figured I might eventually find one, but the Common Gallinule was a big surprise. It wasn’t even on my radar as an eventual county bird.

My last stop on the day was at Honker Haven in Atterbury FWA. Even without the platform I figured I would stop for a check.

I left the car parked diagonally and didn’t even close the door since I figured it would by empty. It was except for a lone bird on the far side of the pond. My first thought was Common Gallinule but the bird was heading towards small weeds where a Great Blue Heron had popped out its head.

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The assumed Common Gallinule had walked in behind the weeds where the Great Blue Heron was located. Atterbury FWA 5/22/16

So I ran back to the car for the spotting scope. When I got back the bird was gone. No photo and not a proper ID. I figured it was by the heron which started a chain of events that probably took a half hour but seemed longer.

I walked the perimeter of the pond to the south end for a side view. No bird.

This meant walking into the woods to the west and then back to come up behind the weeds. Which I did and when I got there, no bird.

I figured it had gone into the trees. I knew from prior experience when WOOD DUCKS got in the trees it was hard to find them.  I figured the best strategy was to go back around the lake and keep scanning.

And then it popped out briefly from the trees! ID was correct – Common Gallinule!

My best view would be on the other side of the lake so I went back around.

Sure enough it was out in the open when I got back on the other side of the lake.

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The Common Gallinule came out from under the trees presenting the opportunity for photos. Atterbury FWA 5/22/16

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It eventually came back to the shore and walked on the edge where I had initially saw it.

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Common Gallinule COGA (19)

I called Mike since I knew it would be a county bird for him also and he arrived in about 20 minutes.

And we went through the whole process again since the bird had moved back to the trees.

I’ll keep checking to see if the bird stays but I figure it was just moving through.  The habitat is not what you’d expect for a Common Gallinule. That and if it is in the woods it will be tough to see.

7 Replies to “Common Gallinule – An Unexpected Find”

  1. Great county bird! I have often thought about bringing along an 8-foot ladder to areas where I need just a bit more height to see things, but I feel like that would be too weird. It may be something to consider though if I can get looks at birds like that.

    1. Take the ladder. When I lived in Illinois I carried a 5 foot step ladder in the trunk of the car. It came in handy at a couple of shorebird spots to help see over the edge. Of course the security at the local nuke plant didn’t like it but that is another story…

  2. Nice find! I’ve only seen these in Florida, so I was surprised to find out a few years ago that they migrate and breed in Indiana.

    1. As you know there are only a few spots in either Indiana or Illinois where you can find them. So unless you are actually looking for them you won’t come across one. That was why I was surprised to see one.

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