Birds of the World

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TRAITS
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Totipalmate Swm

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Waders
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 NW Vultures
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Pici
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PASSERINES
   NZ WRENS
   OW SUBOSC

      Broadbills
      Pittas

 NW SUBOSC
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 OSCINES
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 9-prim. Oscines

   Fringillines
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   NW Sparrows
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Gruiformes - Rails
 
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Opisthocomiformes, Turniciformes, Gruiformes
Families: Opisthocomidae, Button-quail, Sunbitterns, Bustands, Cranes, Limpkins, Sungrebes,
    Trumpeters, Seriamas, Kagus, Rails, Mesites
 
Images:   
Clapper Rail, Black-crowned Crane, Buff-banded Rail, Eurasian Coot
 
  Family Rallidae - Rails , Gallinules , Coots
Wiki     Wiki     Wiki     ToL     EoL
EXAMPLE
  142 species, 34 genera. Worldwide (except polar regions). Several flightless endemics found on ocean islands. These populations are particularly vulnerable to the activities of man and his associated introduced animals (rats, cats, etc.).
   Rails are primarily aquatic birds, usually of small to medium size. Their body is compressed for easy movement through marsh vegetation (rails, flufftails, and gallinules). Bills vary, generally with diet. They are small, short and stubby in more herbivorous species and long and slender in more carnivorous groups. Most are holorhinal and most have pervious nares. A few have a frontal shield, a fleshy extension of the upper mandible.
   They have short, rounded wings. They are weak fliers and are seldom seen, often running through cover rather than flying. If they take wing to escape, the quickly return to cover. Most are diastataxic. They have strong legs with long toes and a large, slightly-raised hallux. The exceptional toes of gallinules distribute the weight over a large area, enabling them to walk on floating vegetation. Rails are primarily adapted for walking (not swimming). However, all are able to swim and they may escape predators by sinking underwater. They use their wings underwater. Coots have lobed toes (like grebes) and are strong swimmers.
   Their plumage is largely cryptic. Males can be slightly larger than females but seldom differ in coloration. A few are brightly colored. After breeding, rails undergo a complete molt - it is accelerated in some species so that adults to become flightless for a period.
   Caeca are long. The oil gland is bilobed and tufted in most. They have 10-14 tail feathers, and 14-15 cervical vertebrae.
   Small species are generally nocturnal. Rails are secretive and are best located and identified by voice. Calls and songs vary from social notes to harsh mechanical sounds. Some species perform duets. Most live in marshes, mangrove swamps, meadows or wet farmland. They may be active round the clock - but many feed at night. They forage while walking around in damp marshes. Moorhens are largely herbivorous but most eat a variety of plant material and animals. A few may eat carrion.
   Tropical species are generally resident but those breeding in higher latitudes are migratory (they are nocturnal migrants).
   In our area, coots and gallinules are large swimming rails found in fresh water. Gallinules have long toes and can walk on vegetation - coots possess flaps on each of the toes that fold when the foot is brought forward and extend to provide added surface when the foot is pushed backwards in swimming. Coots and gallinules announce their presence with a variety of clacks and hoots. Coots and gallinules are primarily swimmers (not divers).
   Most species are monogamous? (Some are promiscuous, at least one is polygnous and one polyandrous). Coots and gallinules have nocturnal display flights. Nest sites are usually hidden. Nests are open or globular. Coots may build floating nests anchored to marsh vegetation. Nests of many species have entry ramps leading from the nest to the ground or water. They usually lay 6-12 (1-19) eggs. Both parents usually incubate 13-31 days - hatching may be synchronous and asynchronous. The nestling down is black or dark brown. Young are nidifugous. Chicks can swim and depart from the nest within a few days. They continue to be fed by both parents for days to several weeks. In some species, young from an earlier brood may serve as helpers - cooperative breeders. Most species raise 1-2 broods.
   As debate continues about the boundaries and interrelations of various "gruiform" gorups, rails will probably remain a "core" family in the original order.
 
Buff-banded Rail
Coot
Coot
 
Buff-banded Rails, Gallirallus
philippensis.
Kuranda, Australia
                       Wiki     ToL     EoL
Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra. Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Left - adult with chicks                                Right - lobed foot
                                                                     Wiki     ToL     EoL
 
  Family Mesithornithidae - Mesites
Wiki     ToL     EoL
  3 species, 2 genera (Mesitornis, Monias). Madagascar. All are threatened or endangered.
   Mesites have been placed in a separate order (Order Mesithornithiformes).  However, their traditional placement is in the Gruiformes but this position is uncertain. The Kagu and Sunbittern are not too distant relatives - all possess powder down.The Tree of Life places Mesites between the sunbittern-kagu and grebe-flamingo clades. One DNA study suggests that the are a sister group of the doves (Columbiformes) and more distantly related to sandgrouse, tropicbirds, grebes, and flamingos.
   Mesites are the size of large thrushes. They are flightless (or poor fliers), with short wings, and they are terrestrial (one species, the Subdesert Mesite, Monias benschi, will flutter to a low posture when disturbed). They are  eutaxic. They are slim with a small head, and a long, rounded tail. Their legs and feet are relatively strong. The hallux is elevated. The bill is short and straight. The nostrils are perforate and schizorhinal. Mesites are brownish with paler underparts - they are somewhat pheasant-like in appearance with long full tails. In two species, the sexes are alike - in one they are dichromatic. They have 5 pairs of powder downs and no oil gland.  They have long ceca, no crop, and the flexor tendons are Type 1. The syrinx is tracheo-bronchial and contour feathers have no aftershaft. They have 16 tail feathers.
   Mesites are secretive. They walk, bobbing their head like doves and wagging or lowering the tail. They forage on the ground, sorting leaves and decaying vegetation searching for small insects and larvae. They also eat seeds and small fruits. Two species are found in dense forests, the Subdesert Mesite inhabits drier scrubland. They have loud songs - one species may sing duets. Alarm calls and notes may help locate them in the brush. Adults use song to establish their territory.
  Their nest is a platform of twigs with a lining of leaves and fibers, placed near the ground in trees or bushes. They reach the nest by climbing, not flying. Eggs are usually single (more than one egg may indicate polygyny). Both sexes incubate and feed the young.  They are cooperative breeders and  nest in trees. Young are downy and precocial and nidifugous with the  downy young leaving the nest soon after hatching. They are cared for by both parents for up to a year.
   
   
   
       
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



   
  Banner - Common Moorhen.