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A photo of a White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
White-breasted Waterhen

White-breasted Waterhen

Amaurornis phoenicurus

The White-breasted Waterhen, known scientifically as Amaurornis phoenicurus, presents a striking contrast in its plumage. The adult birds are adorned with dark grey upperparts and flanks, while their face, neck, and breast gleam in pure white. The lower belly and undertail boast a cinnamon hue or match the white of their upper body. Adapted for a life amidst dense vegetation, their bodies are laterally compressed, easing their movement through reeds. They possess long toes, a short tail, and are equipped with a yellow bill and legs. Both sexes are similar in appearance, though females are marginally smaller. The immature birds display a more subdued coloration, and the downy chicks are cloaked in black, a common trait among rails.

Identification Tips

To identify the White-breasted Waterhen, look for the clean white face, breast, and belly that contrast with the dark slaty body. Their yellow bill and legs are also distinctive, as is their behavior of walking with a cocked, jerking tail.

Habitat

These waterhens favor marshes as their breeding grounds, thriving in tropical Asia's wetlands.

Distribution

The species is widely distributed across South and Southeast Asia, from Pakistan to Indonesia. They are commonly found in the plains but can also be encountered in higher elevations up to 1500 meters.

Behaviour

White-breasted Waterhens are often solitary or in pairs, foraging with deliberate steps along water bodies. They exhibit a unique tail-jerking motion as they walk and are known to probe the mud or shallow water with their bills, also visually seeking out food. They are crepuscular, being most active during dawn and dusk.

Song & Calls

The species is vocal, especially during the breeding season, producing loud and repetitive croaking calls. The Andaman population, in particular, is known for its duck-like quack calls.

Breeding

Breeding occurs mainly from June to October, varying by location. Nests are constructed on dry ground amidst marsh vegetation, where 6-7 eggs are laid. Both parents share incubation duties and chick rearing, with hatching occurring around 19 days.

Similar Species

While there are no similar species mentioned, always consider the habitat and behavior when differentiating between species.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists of insects, small fish, aquatic invertebrates, and grains or seeds. They have been observed washing their prey in water before consumption and may occasionally feed in deeper waters like a moorhen.

Conservation status

The White-breasted Waterhen is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating a stable population across its extensive range.

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