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.