Species Details

Details of Common moorhen will be displayed below

Common moorhen   

Common Name: Common moorhen
Scientific Name: Gallinula chloropus
Local Name: Valikukulhu or Olhuvalu Kanbili
Dhivehi Name: ވަލިކުކުޅު/އޮޅުވަލު ކަނބިލި
Animalia  (Kingdom)
Chordata  (Plylum)
Aves  (Class)
Gruiformes  (Order)
Rallidae  (Family)
Gallinula   (Genus)

Common moorhen's description

The moorhen is a distinctive species, with dark plumage apart from the white undertail, yellow legs and a red frontal shield. The young are browner and lack the red shield. The frontal shield of the adult has a rounded top and fairly parallel sides; the tailward margin of the red unfeathered area is a smooth waving line. In the related common gallinule of the Americas, the frontal shield has a fairly straight top and is less wide towards the bill, giving a marked indentation to the back margin of the red area.

The common moorhen gives a wide range of gargling calls and will emit loud hisses when threatened. A midsized to large rail, it can range from 30 to 38 cm (12 to 15 in) in length and span 50 to 62 cm (20 to 24 in) across the wings. The body mass of this species can range from 192 to 500 g (6.8 to 17.6 oz).

Common moorhen's facts

  • Moorhens are very aggressive and territorial during the mating season. Females often produce 2 to 3 broods per season.
  • Both male and female participate in the construction of the nest and incubation of the eggs. Nest is often located over the water or on the ground. Female lays 6 to 10 eggs that hatch after three weeks.
  • Both parents provide food and take care of their chicks until they become ready to fend for themselves. Moorhens are excellent swimmers at the early age, but they lose this ability later in life.
  • Moorhen reaches sexual maturity at the age of one year.
  • Moorhen has an average lifespan of 3 years.

Common moorhen's Behavior & Ecology

The species breeds in solitary territorial pairs during wet months (the exact timing varying geographically) (del Hoyo et al. 1996).It remains largely solitary throughout the year although juveniles and adults may form diurnal feeding groups especially during hard weather (Taylor and van Perlo 1998).

Common moorhen's Feeding

The common moorhen is omnivorous and feeds while walking on plants or while floating on the water. It swims across the water to scoop up floating seeds and other materials from plants floating on the surface of the water. It also dives to gather the seeds, leaves and roots of aquatic plants. On land it walks with a high-stepping gait and pecks at the ground like a chicken. It also eats algae, small fish, tadpoles, insects, berries, grass, snails, insects and worms.

Common moorhen's Reproduction

 The nest varies between a shallow saucer and a deep cup constructed from twigs and waterside vegetation, and can be floating on or positioned up to 1 m above water in emergent vegetation, or positioned on a solid platform of branches in water. Less often the nest is placed in ground vegetation or in low bushes on the bank near water, or in bushes and trees up to 8 m from the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1996). 

Common Moorhen both male and female birds help to build the nest of floating vegetation. Nests of the Moorhen are built on the water or very close by. The male carries the materials and the female arranges them. Nests are also stages for courtship, and it is ritualized and courtship chasing also associated with pair formation.

The Common Moorhen usually lay from five to eleven eggs that are greenish white with spots. However some study shows that the Common Moorhen lays three to four eggs in the tropics. 

The Common Moorhen nest has a wide shallow cup in the center for the eggs, may be partly floating. Adults eat the eggshells after the chicks hatch.  They feed the chicks soon after hatching, mostly insects and their larvae.

Common moorhen's Conservation

Common Moorhen is a protected bird in the Maldives since 22nd May 2003; hence, their capture, sale and captivity have been prohibited. However, there are no vital conservation measures taken to protect the nesting habitats of Common Moorhen.

Common moorhen habitat

Behaviour This species is predominantly sedentary or locally dispersive, but makes partially or fully migratory movements in the northern parts of its range due to its vulnerability to freezing conditions (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Most northern populations move south from September to December, returning again from March to May (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species breeds in solitary territorial pairs during the spring, especially during wet months (the exact timing varying geographically) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It remains largely solitary throughout the year although juveniles and adults may form diurnal feeding groups of up to 30 individuals in the winter, especially during hard weather (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), often congregating on sheltered lakes and ponds (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Habitat
The species inhabits freshwater wetlands, both still and moving, requiring easy access to open water (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and showing a preference for waters sheltered by woodland, bushes or tall emergent vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Suitable habitats include slow-flowing rivers (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998), oxbow lakes (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), streams, canals, ditches, lakes, reservoirs, sites with small open water surfaces such as pools and ponds only a few metres across, swamps, marshes (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998), seasonally flooded sites (del Hoyo et al. 1996) such as flood-plains (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), disused gravel pits, rice-fields (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998), sewage ponds (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), and occasionally seashores (Azerbaijan) (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It generally avoids very open sites (especially those exposed to wind or wave action) (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998) and oligotrophic or saline habitats (although it may be found on brackish waters) (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). When foraging the species may range onto drier grassland, agricultural land or meadows, and on migration and in the winter months it can often be observed on damp grassland away from water (Taylor and van Perlo 1998).

Diet
The species is omnivorous and opportunistic, its diet consisting of earthworms, crustaceans, molluscs, adult and larval insects (especially flies, mayflies, caddisflies, bugs, beetles and Lepidoptera), spiders, small fish, tadpoles and occasionally birds eggs, as well as plant matter such as filamentous algae, moss, the vegetative parts of reeds and aquatic plants, the seeds of reeds, rushes, sedges, water-lilies, waterside herbaceous vegetation, trees (Ulmus spp.) and cereal crops, flowers of Eichhornia spp., and the berries and fruits of yew, Rubus, Sorbus, Rosa, Crataegus, Rhamnus, Hedera, Sambucus, Hippophae spp. and various orchard trees (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Breeding site
The nest varies between a shallow saucer and a deep cup constructed from twigs and waterside vegetation, and can be floating on or positioned up to 1 m above water in emergent vegetation, or positioned on a solid platform of branches in water. Less often the nest is placed in ground vegetation or in low bushes on the bank near water, or in bushes and trees up to 8 m from the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Management information
Early harvesting in rice-fields should be avoided as it harms nests and young broods of this species (Taylor and van Perlo 1998).

Common moorhen threats

In north-west Europe, populations are known to fluctuate significantly owing to severe winters (Taylor et al. 2014). The species is susceptible to avian influenza (Melville and Shortridge 2006, Gaidet et al. 2007) and avian botulism (Rocke 2006) and may be threatened by future outbreaks of these diseases. It is also vulnerable to predation by introduced American Mink (Neovison vison) in the U.K. (Ferraras and McDonald 1999).

Common moorhen's status