Common moorhen

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The common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is a medium sized water bird belonging to the crake and rail family, Rallidae. The moorhen is distributed in Europe, Africa, Asia, Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Philippines and Indonesia. Except for polar regions and tropical rain forests, it is found in most of the wetlands, marshes and water bodies with thick vegetation. There are five recognized subspecies of the common moorhen.

Taxonomy of Common moorhen

  • Scientific Name: Gallinula chloropus
  • Common Name: Common moorhen
  • French: Gallinule poule-d’eau; German: Teichhuhn; Spanish: Gallineta comĂșn;
  • Other names: Fulica Chloropus Linnaeus, 1758; swamp chicken; common waterhen;
  • Family: Rallidae › Gruiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
The five recognized subspecies of Gallinula chloropus are: G. c. chloropus (Linnaeus, 1758), G. c. guami E. J. O. Hartert, 1917, G. c. meridionalis (C. L. Brehm, 1831), G. c. orientalis Horsfield, 1821 and G. c. pyrrhorrhoa A. Newton, 1861. This moorhen species is closely related to G. tenebrosa. Until recently it was clubbed with G. galeata.


The common moorhen is medium sized bird with marked sexual dimorphism. The male bird is larger and measures 30 to 40 cm in length and weighs 250 to 500 grams. The female bird weighs 200 to 300 grams. The wingspan is 50 to 55 cm. These moorhen have black/dark brown plumage and white undertail. The frontal shield is red and in adults has rounded top. The tip of the bill is yellow. They have long legs and toes which are yellow in color. Their call is a loud clucking, gargling chattering or hissing sound.
Birds of India - Common moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Indian birds - Common moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Indian birds - Common moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Birds of India - Common moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Birds of India - Common moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Indian birds - Common moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Indian birds - Common moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Birds of India - Common moorhen - Gallinula chloropus


These moorhen species inhabit reedbeds, freshwater wetlands, marshes, swamps, flooded pasture, slow-flowing rivers, flooded meadows, flood-plains, irrigated lands and flooded agricultural fields. They appear to avoid saline habitats.

Diet and feeding habits

These moorhen species are omnivorous and feed on plant matter like algae, moss, the vegetative parts of reeds, aquatic plants, flowers, seeds, grass, shoots, berries, fruits and cereal crops. They also feed on small fish, invertebrates, aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, worms and mollusks.


These moorhen species usually breed during rainy season, the exact timing varying with respect to local geographical conditions. The moorhen nest is cup-like structure constructed from twigs and marsh vegetation. It may be a floating structure or placed on marsh vegetation or even on bushes and trees up to eight meters from ground. The clutch may contains up to 8 eggs. Both the parent birds incubate and feed the young ones.


The moorhen nominate subspecies G. c. chloropus is distributed in Europe, North Africa, Indian subcontinent, East Asia and Southeast Asia. The subspecies G. c. meridionalis is distributed in sub-Saharan Africa. The subspecies G. c. pyrrhorrhoa is distributed in Madagascar, RĂ©union Island, Mauritius and Comoro Islands. The subspecies G. c. orientalis is distributed in Andaman Islands (India) Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia (Greater Sundas and Lesser Sundas), Philippines and Palau Island. The subspecies G. c. guami is distributed in Northern Mariana Islands (United States insular areas) and Guam (U.S. island territory).

Movement and migration Patterns

These moorhen populations are mostly resident. The northern populations may make partial migratory movements to southern parts to avoid freezing conditions in the winter. These moorhen species move locally within their range for foraging and breeding.

Conservation status and concerns

These moorhen species global population is estimated to be around 2,900,000 to 6,200,000 individual birds. The overall population trend is considered to be stable. As it has a very large range, it is considered not Vulnerable. The loss of wetlands and marshes due to human activities is the main threat to the survival of these moorhen species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these moorhen species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Gallinula chloropus
Species:G. chloropus
Binomial name:Gallinula chloropus
Distribution:Pakistan, Indian subcontinent, Europe, Asia, Africa, Southeast Asia, Philippines and Indonesia;
Diet and feeding habits:feeds on small fish, small frogs, mollusks, invertebrates, shrimps, aquatic insects, and earthworms; plant matter include algae, seeds, grass, shoots and berries;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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