Belongs to: crakes

Compare with: coot

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

Best time to see: all year

Key facts

Common bird of any freshwater habitat, including town parks, with distinctive red and yellow bill

Name is a corruption of mere-hen, meaning bird of the lakes

Widespread and common resident, breeding in thick cover by the side of lakes, ponds and rivers


Dumpy, black below, brown upperparts, yellow legs, red and yellow bill, white flash on tail; 30–32 cm

Walks with chicken-like jerky movements of the head; jerks its tail when swimming, showing the white flash

Dabbles to eat molluscs, plants, seeds and aquatic insects; dives and hides under water when alarmed


Males defend their territory fiercely against all-comers, sometimes causing injury

Both parents build a platform of dried vegetation, on or near the ground near water, or sometimes in a bush nearby

Normally two, sometimes 3 broods of 5-11 buff eggs, speckled red-brown, March–July

© Owen Keen

© Alan Williams