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Friday, November 05, 2004

Purple Gallinule final word?

There had been some rumors circulating that the vagrant Purple Gallinule that was in the park had been killed by a predator. I eventually tracked down the story to the local birder who found some of its feathers. In an e-mail Joe Borker wrote:

...the feathers that I found between the skating rink and the phags. After I left you, I came across a large number of secondaries, inner primaries, body and tail feathers. I think that a four footed animal (dog, raccoon not a raptor) got hold of the victim between the outstretched wing and body. I did not find a body, but from the amount of feathers the bird was probably not going to survive. All the feathers had the bluish and/or yellow sheen that makes a gallinule or moorhen come to mind. The tail feathers were narrow, similar in feel to what in passerines would indicate a young bird, but I don't know if that holds true in rails. Some of the body feathers were in clumps with flesh attached, but not that many. The bird wasn't eaten there, so maybe it escaped. At first I thought of the gallinule but the feathers have a gray undertone some by the time I left the park I was thinking moorhen. I did watch my email hoping the gallinule was seen after Sunday so as you can see I was didn't totally rule out the gallinule. Has the gallinule been seen since then?

Joe sent me some of the feathers so I could examine them. I could see some blue-green iridescence under sunlight. When I scanned them with a white background they looked very muddy and uniform. I then placed a black board behind them which made the blue-green really stand out. For relative sizing, the largest feather is 4 3/4" long. Also, I've noticed that a feral cat has been hanging around the skating rink with one kitten. So, unfortunately, after an 11 day run in Brooklyn, I think that our gallinule may have met with an untimely death. Joe has suggested that we bring the feathers to the American Museum of Natural History to compare with other gallinule specimens. I think I know what we will find but I'll bring my camera for documentation.

Gallinule feathers? Probably

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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