Species Details

Details of White Breasted Water-hen will be displayed below

White Breasted Wat...   

Common Name: White Breasted Water-hen
Scientific Name: Amaurornis phoenicurus
Local Name: Kanbili
Dhivehi Name: ކަނބިލި
Animalia  (Kingdom)
Chordata  (Plylum)
Aves  (Class)
Gruiformes  (Order)
Rallidae  (Family)
Amaurornis   (Genus)

White Breasted Water-hen's description

Adult white-breasted waterhens have mainly dark grey upperparts and flanks, and a white face, neck and breast. The lower belly and undertail are cinnamon coloured. The body is flattened laterally to allow easier passage through the reeds or undergrowth. They have long toes, a short tail and a yellow bill and legs. Sexes are similar but females measure slightly smaller. Immature birds are much duller versions of the adults. The downy chicks are black, as with all rails.

White Breasted Water-hen's facts

  • White Breasted Water-hen (Kanbili) is National bird of the Maldives.
  • These waterhen species inhabit subtropical or tropical mangrove forests, wetlands, marshes, dense swamps, reedbeds and paddy fields.
  • The white-breasted waterhen feeds primarily on invertebrates, aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, worms, small frogs and mollusks. It also feeds on seeds, grass, shoots and berries.
  • The white-breasted waterhen breeding season is usually between June and October, but varies locally.
  • The white-breasted waterhen are resident birds in most of their ranges. They may make local movements for breeding and feeding. Some northern waterhen populations may move southwards for wintering.

White Breasted Water-hen's Behavior & Ecology

These birds are usually seen singly or in pairs as they forage slowly along the edge of a waterbody mainly on the ground but sometimes clambering up low vegetation. The tail is held up and jerked as they walk. They probe with their bill in mud or shallow water, also picking up food by sight. They may sometimes feed in deeper water in the manner of a moorhen. They nest in a dry location on the ground in marsh vegetation.

White Breasted Water-hen's Feeding

They mainly eat insects (large numbers of beetles have been recorded), small fish (which are often carefully washed in water), aquatic invertebrates and grains as well as grass seeds and the roots and shoots of marsh plants.

White Breasted Water-hen's Reproduction

The nesting season is mainly June to October but varies locally. They nest in a dry location on the ground in marsh vegetation,usually laying 6-7 eggs. The eggs hatch in about 19 days. Both sexes incubate the eggs and take care of the chicks. 

White Breasted Water-hen's Conservation

The white-breasted waterhen global population is estimated to be around 10,000 to 100,000 individual birds. However the population trend is uncertain, as waterhen occurrence is in extremely large range. It is considered that they do not approach the thresholds for the Vulnerable species. Destruction, modification and fragmentation of the natural habitats are the main threats for the survival of these waterhen species.


A protected bird in Maldives since 11th July 1999. 

White Breasted Water-hen's Relationship with Humans

National bird of Maldives.

White Breasted Water-hen's status