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The Moorhen

September 30, 2021

A moorhen is a species of waterfowl sometimes called “marsh hens.” These birds are medium-sized members of the Rallidae family of mostly land-based birds. Moorhens have dark, almost black feathers with white under tails and reddish-orange beak crests. Moorhens are close relatives of the Coot. Additionally, their feet don’t have webbing like other ducks.

Common Moorhens are considered weak fliers because of their short round-shaped wings. However, these birds do migrate south and north up to 200 km, depending on the season. Some species of Moorhens that live on islands don’t migrate with the seasons. Instead of flying, these birds developed strong legs for running across the terrain.

As territorial birds go, the Common Moorhen is aggressive during the breeding season. As a result, these waterfowl are most comfortable flocking together in groups and among lake vegetation. As omnivores, Moorhens are attracted to these lake areas because of small rodents and other small animals who visit the lake. Even other bird species’ eggs are on a Moorhens menu.

The Moorhen name dates back to 14th century England. It wasn’t until much later that Mathurin Jacques Brisson, in 1760, classified what we know as the Common Moorhen. There are several known species of Moorhen, primarily because they flourish even in the most unlikely of places. For example, some city parks are known to have flocks of Moorhens.

1 Comment

  1. Gloria Van Gorden

    I love the details of each animal I look up. Also the stories about them are fascinating. Thank you for this website.


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