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Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

It is a black swamp chicken sporting a red bill with a yellow tip. Prefers freshwater or brackish marshes, on lakes, ponds, and other slow-moving water bodies circles with vegetation. This bird swims in a lurching manner and walks with on sly pace with its tail lightly cocked. It is relatively smaller than the coot, timider, and seldomly goes afar in the open water.

Read further to know more about the Moorhen.

What is a Moorhen?

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), also known as the common moorhen, marsh hen, swamp chicken, or waterhen is a bird species belonging in the family Rallidae. Their genus, Gallinula, is the Latin term for “little hen.” These rails are close cousins of coots, thriving in well-vegetated marshes but are absent in tropical rainforests and polar regions.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Gruiformes

Family: Rallidae

Genus: Gallinula

Species: G. chloropus

Moorhen Physical Description

Moorhen is a medium-sized bird, growing up to 14 inches or 36 centimeters, and weighing around 200 to 340 grams. Its plumage shows a bold black head and neck, a purplish-black breast, and a white stripe down each side and on each flank. A bright red shield is observed on their forehead down between eyes and its yellow-tipped red bill. Large legs and feet are yellow, with a red stripe occurring below the feathers. Juveniles or immature birds resemble the adults but sans the red shield and bill.

Where can they be spotted?

Moorhens thrive in freshwater or brackish marshes, lakes, ponds, swamps, or slow-moving rivers, streams, and reservoirs surrounded by emergent, submerged, or floating vegetation. They can also occur in smaller canals, ditches, and rice fields. The species has a wide range and can be found in Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Moorhen

Moorhens feed both on land and waters, upending on water if need. They have a varied diet composed of plants matters, such as seeds, leaves, berries, and small aquatic creatures, like fish, snails, worms.

These birds swim like ducks, bobbing their head forward, and walk on top of aquatic vegetation like their rail cousins. They prefer to stay near marsh vegetation but may occasionally swim in the open waters every once in a while.

Moorhen tends to become territorial during their breeding period. The egg-laying season usually starts in spring, particularly from March to May in the temperature regions of the Northern hemisphere. The nest is characterized by a basket constructed on the ground made of various vegetation.

The female moorhen usually lays a clutch of 8 eggs, which both sexes will incubate for about three weeks. After hatching, broods will be fed by both parents before fledging in about 40 to 50 days. Soon enough, they will become independent after a few weeks after.

Moorhens are not threatened globally, and they are abundant in much of its range. The bird species is currently classified as Least Concern (LC) under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:

BOTSWANA

Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Makgadikgadi Pan

Mashatu Game Reserve

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve

Savute

SOUTH AFRICA

Addo Elephant National Park

Cape Peninsula National Park

Hluhluwe Game Reserves

Kalahari Gemsbok National Park

Knysna Lagoon

Kruger National Park

Madikwe Game Reserve

St Lucia Wetlands

NAMIBIA

Caprivi Region

Damaraland

Etosha National Park

Namib-Naukluft National Park

Skeleton Coast

ZAMBIA

Kafue

Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

ZIMBABWE

Gona-re-Zhou

Hwange

Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls

Moorhen
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