New Mexico Birds: Gruiformes


Gruiformes means "crane-like." Images are organized alphabetically by taxon. Hover over a photo series to control the images.

Gruidae: Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)

After just a bit of practice, it's easy to identify this species. On the ground the "bustles" of drooping feathers at their rumps are obvious, even at a distance. In the air their heads-out, feet-back flying style is also a giveaway. It took me a while to realize that if the head lacks red in front and is rusty-looking in back, that's a juvenile. If you hear a high-pitched reedy call among the adults' guttural calls, again that's a juvenile.


To see more cranes (at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Preserve, back before all the construction), click here.


Rallidae: American Coot (Fulica americana)


Although American coots are good swimmers, they don't have webbed feet. Instead they have flaps along each of their very large toes. The flaps bend back during the forward part of their swimming stroke, then spread during the back part of the stroke. American Coots use those superbly adapted feet to dive for aquatic plants, which they eat after bobbing back up. I have seen ducks hang close to diving coots, then attempt to steal the greens the coots brought to the surface.


 Normally, the adults are black with white beaks. In Spring 2022 I saw a mostly white coot. Among animals, partial albinism is called leucism.