Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)


The Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is found almost worldwide and it is very adaptable to its environment, living in desert, tropical rainforest and polar regions. Also known as the Common Gallinule in North America, this bird tends to favour well-vegetated lakes as breeding environments. The birds are usually reclusive, but have been known be become quite tame in certain areas. Those that live in areas where lakes and other bodies of water tend to freeze over in winter generally migrate to more temperate parts of the globe during the colder months.

This bird has quite distinctive markings. The adult’s head, neck, breast and belly are slate grey while its bill is red with a yellow tip. There is a red frontal shield above the bill and the upperwings are a brownish color. The upper flank has a clearly visible white stripe, while the feet are a greenish yellow. Interestingly, while a juvenile has many of the same characteristics, it has somewhat less color on its body and wings. The head and underparts are a pale gray-brown while the upperparts are a dark-grey brown. The bill is not yet bright red, though the stripe on the flanks and other colouring is more or less present. The average Common Moorhen has a body length of 10.5 inches and a wingspan of 21 inches. The wings and tail are fairly short in comparison to other duck-like waterbirds and the bill is thick and short. They are comfortable in the air, on the water and on land and the sexes are similar in appearance.

The Common Moorhen makes its nest on the ground in amongst dense vegetation. Their nests take the form of a roofed basket and they may lay between 8-12 eggs in it. Both parents work hard to incubate the eggs over a period of 3 weeks and then they take it in turns to feed the young. They are capable of producing more than one brood in a year and so, despite certain environmental changes and other negative conditions, the bird has been able to remain fairly common and widespread.