Common Moorhen

Common Moorhen

Scientific Classification

Common Name
common moorhen
Genus Species
Gallinula chloropus

Fast Facts

The common moorhen has a distinctive, slate-black breast, dark black head and neck, olive-green back, white rump, and a white stripe on each flank. This bird stands erect on large yellow legs and feet. Each leg has a red band above the upper joint just below the feathers. The feature that distinguishes it from other gallinules is the bright red shield on the face between the eyes.
36 cm (14 in.) in length
200 to 340 g (7 to 12 oz.)
The species is omnivorous and opportunistic with a diet that consists of earthworms, crustaceans, mollusks, adult and larval insects (especially flies, mayflies, bugs, beetles, and butterflies), spiders, small fish, tadpoles, and occasionally birds eggs, algae, moss, aquatic plants, seeds, flowers, berries, and fruit.
Males and females share the task of incubating the eggs. After about 3 weeks, the chicks hatch. The young are able to swim soon after they hatch, but interestingly enough they lose this skill as they mature.
Clutch Size
Common moorhens breed from April to August. The female lays a clutch of 6–10 eggs, and may lay 2–3 clutches in a season.
Fledging Duration
At 3 weeks of age, young chicks can forage for themselves. Most can fly by 7 weeks of age. The young, however, stay with their parents until the fall to help raise later broods.
Sexual Maturity
1 year
Life Span
3 years
This species has an extremely large range and can be found in Europe, Africa, and all across Asia to India, Indonesia, and Japan.
The Common Moorhen inhabits freshwater wetlands with easy access to open water. They show a preference for waters sheltered by woodland, bushes or tall emergent vegetation. Suitable habitats include slow-flowing rivers, oxbow lakes, streams, canals, ditches, lakes, reservoirs, swamps, and marshes.

POPULATION: The global population is estimated at 4,956,000 to 8,400,000 individuals. The population appears to be stable and is not severely fragmented.
IUCN: Least Concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS:  Not listed

Fun Facts

Except during the breeding season, these birds will gather into flocks of 15 to 30 individuals. An older adult male is generally the dominant member of these groups.

This bird is also called a swamp chicken since it is about the size of chicken and has a chicken-like body shape.

Ecology and Conservation

The overall population trend is thought to be stable, although some populations are decreasing, while others are increasing, stable or have unknown trends. The European population is estimated to be stable.

Although not considered threatened, Common Moorhens face the continued threat of habitat destruction and hunting by humans.

Early harvesting in rice-fields should be avoided as it harms nests and young broods of this species.

It is also vulnerable to predation by introduced American Mink (Neovison vison) in the United Kingdom.


Perrins, C.M. and Alex Middleton. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990.

Peterson, R.T. A Field Guide to Western Birds. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1990.

Gough, G.A., Sauer, J.R., Iliff, M. Patuxent Bird Identification Infocenter. 1998. Version 97.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD.

BirdLife International. 2016. Gallinula chloropus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T62120190A86175318. Downloaded on 30 January 2019.