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A photo of a Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Common Moorhen

Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus

The common moorhen, known scientifically as Gallinula chloropus, is a bird of the rail family, Rallidae. It is a bird of striking appearance, with a mix of black and brown plumage, a white under-tail, and white streaks along its flanks. Its legs are a vibrant yellow, and it sports a distinctive red frontal shield. The bill is a matching red with a yellow tip. Juveniles are a duller brown and do not have the red shield.

Identification Tips

Adult moorhens can be identified by their red frontal shield, which has a rounded top and fairly parallel sides. The tailward margin of the red unfeathered area is smoothly curved. Their yellow legs and the combination of their black and brown plumage with white markings make them quite distinctive. The young are browner and lack the red shield, making them less conspicuous.

Habitat

The common moorhen is found in a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, ponds, canals, and lakes that are rich in vegetation. It is also known to inhabit city parks with suitable water bodies.

Distribution

This species has a broad distribution across many parts of the Old World. It is not found in polar regions or many tropical rainforests but is otherwise widespread, often being the most common rail species in its range.

Behaviour

Moorhens are known for their secretive nature but can become quite tame in certain areas. They exhibit territorial behavior during the breeding season and are known to aggressively defend their territory against intruders.

Song & Calls

The common moorhen emits a variety of gargling calls and will hiss loudly when threatened.

Breeding

Breeding season sees moorhens becoming territorial. They construct a basket-like nest on the ground within dense vegetation. Egg-laying typically begins in spring, with clutches ranging from 5 to 8 eggs. Both parents are involved in incubation and rearing the young, which fledge after 40-50 days.

Similar Species

The common gallinule (Gallinula galeata) of the Americas is closely related but can be distinguished by the shape of its frontal shield and the coloration of its plumage.

Diet and Feeding

Moorhens have a varied diet that includes vegetable matter and small aquatic organisms. They forage in and around water bodies, sometimes upending in the water or walking on lilypads to feed.

Conservation Status

Globally, the common moorhen is abundant and classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, localized populations may be vulnerable to extinction due to habitat loss and hunting.

Subspecies

There are about five recognized subspecies of the common moorhen, which vary slightly in appearance and are distributed across different geographic regions. These subspecies include the Eurasian common moorhen (G. c. chloropus), the Indo-Pacific common moorhen (G. c. orientalis), the African common moorhen (G. c. meridionalis), the Madagascan common moorhen (G. c. pyrrhorrhoa), and the Mariana common moorhen (G. c. guami).

Common Moorhen Sounds



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Common Moorhen Fun Facts

Did you know?
Common Moorhens are also known as Waterhens or Swamp Chickens.

Common Moorhens on Birda

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