any of several species of marsh birds belonging to the rail family
, Rallidae, in the order Gruiformes
. Gallinules occur in temperate, tropical, and subtropical regions worldwide and are about the size of bantam hens but with a compressed body like the related rails and coots. They have long, thin toes that enable them to run over floating vegetation and with a prominent frontal shield (a fleshy plate on the forehead). Many species have brightly coloured areas of plumage or skin.