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a family of birds of the order Gruiformes. The body ranges in length from 16 (Porzana pusilla) to 63 cm (Notornis); the weight ranges from 60 g to 3.2 kg. The marsh or, less commonly, aquatic birds are adapted for life in dense thickets. The body is laterally compressed, and the legs have long digits and are themselves extremely or moderately long. The legs of the coot (Fulica atra) and the common gallinule (Gallinula chloropus) have swimming membranes. As a rule, the birds fly poorly; some are totally incapable of flight.
The family Rallidae includes 48 genera, embracing 129 species. The birds are distributed throughout the world except the polar regions. The species composition is particularly diverse in the tropics and subtropics, where the birds inhabit overgrown bodies of water, marshes, and damp meadows. The birds are monogamous and nest on the ground or, less commonly, on the water. The young leave the nest shortly after hatching. The birds eat both vegetation and animal substances (small invertebrates and, occasionally, small vertebrates).
Twelve species of Rallidae are found in the USSR: the corncrake (Crex crex,) common gallinule, water cock (Gallicrex cinerea,) purple gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio,) coot, water rail (Rallus aquaticus,) and six species of Porzana. Some species are of commercial value in the Caspian region and in Middle Asia.