Gruiformes is an order of wading birds that is a bit of a grab bag. All the birds in it have
long legs, but there is a lot of variation in other features such as their neck length; body shape;
type of beak; and their size. Included in this order are Cranes, Coots, Gallinules, Rails and
Limpkins. Grus is the Latin word for "crane". When flying, these birds always hold their
There are some unique voices among this order. Limpkins are active both day and night. In the
darkness, the marshes ring with their strange calls like a small child who is hurt or frightened.
Other species sometimes quack like ducks. Some sound like chickens clucking. One sounds like
Male Whooping Cranes do a strange courting dance (prior to mating). First they leap high in the
air with their wings down straight at their sides, and their heads looking back between their legs.
Then they drop down with their wings spread and their heads held high. They do this over and
over until the female finds them irresistible!
The families of this order occuring in North America are Gruidae (Cranes),
Aramidae (Limpkins), and Rallidae. This last family is divided into two sub-families - one for Coots, and one for Rails and Gallinules. They are interesting birds. Let's go
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