Birda Logo
Species Guide
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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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

Recorded by: © 
App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Common Moorhen Fun Facts

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

Common Moorhens on Birda


More Rails, Crakes & Coots

Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Really useful
Downloaded to give it a try, everything worked perfectly, recorded my first bird watching walk. Very impressed. Have already recommended to friends!
Just what birding needs
We need more fun in birding, for years it has had a reputation for being up tight and stuffy and only perused by retirees and anoraks. Birda helps change that perception and firmly brings birding into the 21st century! Fun, interactive while still contributing to science and conservation. If you aren’t on it, why not??
Great bird recording
For a while I’ve been trying to find an app to easily record bird lists and day out and struggled to find one that I like. Birda is great for this, straightforward and a great community!
A Friendly Place
I love using the bird app, I have a pretty good knowledge of birds. But I do have some gaps in it, so it’s nice to have a safe space to check on a sighting to confirm the species. It’s really enjoyable and I love the badges you can collect. It’s like a real life Pokémon go.
Learning Birding with Birda
I’m relatively new to birding as a hobby, and Birda is a great way to keep track off all the species I see. I’m still working on my ID skills, but the app is great for figuring out potential species, and the online community is so friendly and helpful. Definitely recommend Birda to both early and serious birders! 🐦
Really great app
It’s easy to use and it’s fun to log the birds you notice on a walk or just in your garden. There’s a option to record the birds you see in a session which is really nice. Good excuse to stop for a while and just watch birds. I am also enjoying the information part where you can find out fact about birds from all over the world.
Great app for learning Birds
I’ve been using the app for a couple of months and love it....Someone said it’s like a real life Pokémon Go for birds. They’re not far off! It’s something that the family can do that gets you out and about. Well worth downloading no matter your age.
The best bird logging app
Birda is honestly the best bird logging app I have seen. I love all the features it has from being able to do a session and log all the birds you see in one sitting, to being able to connect with other birders from all over the globe!
Safira V
Birding and wellbeing app
Birda is an excellent platform to share your love of Birding and is a great tool of encouragement for a Birding Beginner like me. Birda has a very kind and supportive community of Birding enthusiasts. For me BIRDA is not only a BIRDING but also a WELLBEING App.
Birda fan
I really enjoy using Birda, all sightings are recorded and photos can be added. There are monthly challenges which help to get you out to record your sightings. The Birda community are great and are happy to help with unidentified bird sightings. Suitable for all ages and experience!
As featured in
AboutPressAmbassadorsAffiliatesInfluencersCareersPrivacyTerms & Conditions
An app for birdwatchers
Giving back
Connect with us
Copyright © 2024 Chirp Birding. All rights reserved.