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The Bird That Swims With Its Feet

During a recent kayak trip on Lake Tsala Apopka, Florida, I heard the cackling call of the common gallinule coming from a freshwater wetland bordering the pond. As I glided towards the marshland I saw two adults with two nearly fledged chicks swimming amongst water lilies and reeds.

To a novice, the common gallinule may be mistaken for a duck. It swims like a duck. It lives in lakes and freshwater wetlands like ducks. But this bird lacks webbed feet that ducks use to swim. It is an adept swimmer with its feet.

Not alarmed by me in the kayak, I was able to watch the family walk on lily pads and climb over fallen logs and branches in the swamp going from one area to another to eat aquatic plants and freshwater snails.

This species is fairly stable over most of its range (northern U.S. to Chile), but any loss of wetlands will impact the common gallinule in the future.

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