Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus meridionalis

Commonly seen singly, in pairs or small family groups, the Common Moorhen inhabits almost any freshwater habitat but prefers water bodies with thickly vegetated borders. They are omnivorous feeders, eating a wide range of algae, moss, other aquatic plants, green shoots, seeds, flowers, berries and fruits, worms, insects, crustaceans, molluscs, small fish and tadpoles and occasionally bird eggs. They have a wingspan up to 62cm and weigh around 250g.

In South Africa the Common Moorhen breeds throughout the year, with pairs isolating themselves from others of their species except for a few helpers from previous broods. The nest is a cup built of plant material, either floating on a platform on the water or raised above it in emergent vegetation, built by the female with material provided by the male. Clutches contain from 4 to 9 eggs, incubated for three weeks by both sexes. Chicks fledge when they’re about 2 months old.

With a stable population estimated at over 8-million birds, distributed widely over Asia, Europe and Africa, the Common Moorhen is listed as being of least concern by the IUCN. In South Africa it is mostly found in the wetter southern, central and eastern parts of the country, being absent from large areas of the arid western parts.

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19 thoughts on “Common Moorhen

  1. scrapydo2.wordpress.com

    I see we also get a moorhen here. It migrates from Japan :Geographical variation: About a dozen subspecies recognised. The closest in range to New Zealand is indica, which has a distribution from northern India to Japan and south to Indonesia, and is a seasonal migrant within this range.
    It is interesting to hear/see that there still are birds that are not on the endangered list!

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          1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

            I am in Central America this week and away from my books. I know there are two gallinules on Ecuador’x coast that ‘span’ all the way to southern Texas.. Or maybe it’s just the Purple gallinule, which takes on stunning blues/purples when in the sun… the other is the ‘common gallinule’ … there are others, and also another which resembles but is the “Jacana jacana.’ Then there are the crakes and rails – wow, so many! We have another species totally different but of equal charisma of the crakes – it’s the antpitta, which – depending on the species – looks like a child drew the prototype and then scientists brought it to life. Very petite, just a suggestion of a tail, long legs — they are the darlings of Ecuador….

            Will check my friends’ bird books and see how many gallinules live here and then check the ranges…

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