Common Moorhen

So I spotted the common moorhen (swamp chicken) during my whirlwind trip through Great Britain several years ago. While it looks remarkably like the common gallinule in the ‘New World’–they are considered two separate species.

Common Moorhen spotted in London, UK

These birds have dark feathers (gray, brown, and black) that are offset by white feathers (within the tail region and along the wings), yellow-green legs, and a red frontal shield.

Their red frontal shield (only seen in the adults) looks rounded at the top, and has fairly parallel sides merging into their yellow beak.

Close-up of the common moorhen–notice the long yellow-green legs and toes

While these are ‘water-birds’, you will notice that their feet aren’t webbed as they forage along the edges of the water, and use their toes and feet to also turn over vegetation when grazing for insects and small invertebrates (such as snails).

The young are browner in color, and lack the red frontal shield.

Young common moorhen picking at stems

The common moorhen can be found throughout a good portion of the ‘Old World’, including most of Europe (with the exceptions of the far northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and some of the more mountainous areas), plus throughout southern Asia and southern Africa.

Common Moorhen map. Map (c) wikipedia

Depending on the location some will migrate to more temperate climates in the winter (from the northern regions, such as souther Finland, Sweden, and Norway). They can be spotted within marshes, lakes, and ponds/rivers within city parks as well.

Their diet includes both vegetation and small aquatic creatures (snails, mollusks, and water insects).

Two other little facts about the common moorhen:

While they’re quite abundant overall in terms of population throughout the ‘Old World’, smaller localized populations have possibly become extinct (namely on islands).

There are five different subspecies recognized within the ‘Old World’, but are also very difficult to differentiate. Those five subspecies are: the Eurasian common moorhen, the Indo-Pacific common moorhen, the African common moorhen, the Madagascan common moorhen, and the Mariana common moorhen.

My photography goal is to try to get a picture of at least one other subspecies, since I managed to get a picture of the Eurasian common moorhen.