Leucistic Moorhen

© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Jouko Lehmuskallio. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.


Gallinula chloropus

  • Name also: Common Moorhen
  • Family: Rails – Rallidae
  • Appearance: A pigeon-sized, fairly long-tailed rail, found in wetlands. Fairly similar in appearance to the related Coot, but has a red and yellow beak, and distinctive white edged undertail coverts with a central black patch.
  • Size: Length 27–31 cm, wingspan 50–55 cm, weight 190–490 g. Males slightly larger.
  • Nest: A fairly high basket-like mound, made of aquatic plant material and willow twigs with a shallow bowl. Many nests have a ramp-like structure for access. May be built on a dry shore or floating in the water.
  • Breeding: 3–11 eggs laid in late April, incubated by both parents for 19–22 days. Fledglings hatch at quite different times, with males caring for the earliest hatchers. Young birds leave the nest immediately. They become independent of their parents within about a week, but do not learn to fly for about 56 days. Parents will aggressively and bravely defend their nests and young against intruders, including much larger birds or animals.
  • Distribution: A scarce breeder around suitable wetlands and ponds in Southern Finland. Found in scattered sites as far north as Lapland. Total Finnish breeding population estimated at just 50–200 pairs. Much scarcer in Finland than in Central Europe where is a common bird found in parks and along canals.
  • Migration: Nocturnal. Leaves Finland September–November, returning March–April. Winters in Western and Southern Europe, also occasionally in Finland.
  • Diet: Aquatic and shore plants, invertebrates.
  • Calls: Mating call a bubbling “bek-bek-bek, bek-bek-bek”, often followed by a shrill squeal. Most common call a gargling rattle “krrr”.
  • Endangerment: Vulnerable, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Moorhens generally resemble Coots, but are smaller and less stocky. Their colouring generally appears a very dark bluish grey with dark olive brown back and wings. They have white vents beneath their tails, and a striking white lengthwise stripe on each flank. They have a bright red forehead shield and base to the beak. Juveniles are greyish brown with white throats, and the same white markings on their vent and flanks, but no red forehead shield.

Moorhens have yellowish or greenish legs with extremely long, slightly webbed toes. Mature birds have a red band around their thighs, while juveniles have a yellowish stripe on each leg. Mature birds have yellow-tipped bright red beaks. Juveniles’ beaks are greenish brown. Moorhens’ irises may be red (adults) or brown (juveniles).

Other species from the same family

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