Fun Common Moorhen Facts For Kids

Mina Frost
Nov 15, 2022 By Mina Frost
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Isobel Murphy
Fact-checked by Shray Sharma
Read through these fascinating common moorhen facts to find out all about this species!
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.8 Min

If you are interested in finding out interesting facts about the common moorhen, you have come to the right place! Read on to discover all about this aquatic bird's habitat, population, diet, and which regions to find it in.

The common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is most often found in marshes, ponds, rivers, and any other open water habitat. Some of the moorhen population which lives in colder environments migrates south during winter.

Its diet mostly consists of vegetation, insects, mollusks, and small fish. The breeding season for the common moorhen is between April and August, after which it builds a nest to raise its chicks.

Despite its name, the moorhen is not related to a chicken, but there are five subspecies associated with it and other related species such as the coot and the rail. Most of the common moorhen population is not currently endangered, although it has some predators such as the American mink in England.

If you want to find out about other species, why not take a look at these grebe facts or these ring-necked duck facts too?

Common Moorhen Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a common moorhen?

The common moorhen is a bird, more specifically a type of hen.

What class of animal does a common moorhen belong to?

The common moorhen belongs to the Aves class of birds.

How many common moorhens are there in the world?

Although it is hard to estimate the exact number of moorhens currently living in the world, the species is not facing extinction, which suggests there is a healthy, growing population. In fact, the name 'common' moorhen reflects the fact that it can be found in abundance in many of its native regions.

The total number of common moorhens in the world is thought to be in the range of 4,956,000 and 8,400,000.

Where does a common moorhen live?

Common moorhens live in wetlands.

What is a common moorhen's habitat?

Common moorhens tend to live in wetlands, areas such as ponds, lakes, canals, and marshes with plenty of surrounding vegetation. Moorhens that live in colder areas where the water freezes migrate south in the winter.

Who do common moorhens live with?

Common moorhens tend to live in flocks of 15-30, with a dominant older adult male.

How long does a common moorhen live?

On average, a common moorhen tends to live as long as three years. Their breeding cycle is quite slow, meaning a common moorhen could reproduce more than two or three times in a lifetime.

How do they reproduce?

As a type of bird, common moorhen birds are oviparous, meaning they reproduce by laying eggs. The breeding season for the common moorhen is between April and August.

After breeding, female moorhen will start laying eggs between March and May in nests built on the ground from vegetation. Each female usually lays about eight eggs early in the season, the number reducing to between five and eight if they lay them later.

The eggs are incubated for three weeks, and both the male and the female are involved in the incubation and the feeding process. Fledglings are born after about 45 days and become independent from their parents within a few weeks.

What is their conservation status?

The common moorhen's conservation status is currently Least Concern. As its name indicates, it is very commonly found in all areas to which it is native, and its population is growing and healthy. Despite this, the common moorhen population in the United Kingdom is particularly vulnerable to the American mink, which preys on its young and chicks in particular.

Common Moorhen Fun Facts

What do common moorhens look like?

Common moorhens are relatively small and slight birds with dark feathers, bright yellow legs and feet, and a red 'frontal shield', meaning the area around their head and bill. The common moorhen also has a white stripe on each side of their flank, a white undertail, and a red band above each of its legs, below the feathers.

Young common moorhens have brown feathers and do not have the red shield until they are fully-fledged adults.

Common moorhen can be recognized thanks to their red frontal shield and bright yellow legs and feet.

‍How cute are they?

Rather than cute, the common moorhen can be considered a beautiful, elegant bird thanks to its dark plumage and vibrant colors.

How do they communicate?

Common moorhens can make a variety of different sounds to communicate. Their main call sounds a bit like human gargling, and they will make a hissing sound when they feel threatened.

How big is a common moorhen?

The common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is considered to be a medium-sized species in the rail family. It is about 12-15 in (30-38 cm) long, about twice the size of a squirrel. The common moorhen's wingspan is between 20-24 in (50-62 cm).

How fast can a common moorhen fly?

It is thought that the common moorhen can fly as fast as 21.8 mph (35 kph).

How much does a common moorhen weigh?

The average common moorhen weighs about 6.8-17.6 oz (192-500 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no distinct name to differentiate a male and a female common moorhen.

What would you call a baby common moorhen?

A baby common moorhen would be called a fledgling or a chick. Common moorhen chicks are laid in broods of between five and eight eggs.

What do they eat?

Common moorhens eat plants such as moss, seeds, flowers, aquatic plants, and any fruit they might be able to find. However, the common moorhen has an omnivorous diet which means it also hunts creatures such as mollusks, crustaceans, fish, or tadpoles in the water and worms, bugs, insects, spiders, and sometimes even bird eggs on the land.

Are they dangerous?

No. Common moorhens are only dangerous to the creatures and small animals that they hunt, but they are small and harmless for humans.

Would they make a good pet?

Common moorhens would probably not make good pets. They are wild birds and need to have lots of space to live comfortably, and some of the population migrates south during the winter season. Furthermore, they are aquatic birds and need plenty of surrounding vegetation in their habitat, which they would not find in captivity.

Did you know...

Immediately after they are born, young common moorhen chicks know how to swim, but they lose this ability as they grow up.

Young common moorhen chicks stick with the adult moorhen for some time after they become independent to help raise the next brood of chicks.

Common moorhens sometimes swallow sand and gravel in order to digest food better.

The colors of the adult common moorhen's shield and the bill can tell you how healthy an individual is. The red color reflects a bacterial infection and the yellow reflects blood parameters.

Keeping the common moorhen out of your backyard can normally be achieved by removing any water features.

Naming the common moorhen

The common moorhen got its name as a reference to 'marshes', the wetlands in which it is often found. It used to be called the common waterhen, which is a slightly better description of where it lives.

The common moorhen also used to be called the common gallinule in reference to its Latin name, Gallinula chloropus. The Latin word 'gallinula' means 'hen' or 'chicken', to which the common moorhen is related, while 'chloropus' in Greek means 'green or yellow foot'.

It was officially referred to as a common moorhen rather than a common gallinule by the American Ornithologists' Union in 1982.

The common moorhen is also sometimes referred to as a 'waterhen' or a 'swamp chicken'.

Comparisons with similar birds

There are five recognized subspecies of the common moorhen: Indo-Pacific common moorhen, Eurasian common moorhen, Madagascan common moorhen, African common moorhen and Mariana common moorhen. All of these species are very similar in appearance and not easilyand the Mariana common moorhen. All of these species are very similar in appearance and not easily distinguishable from one another.

Although they are called 'hens', common moorhens are very different to chicken, in appearance and in lifestyle.

The common moorhen is very closely related to a species called the common gallinule, but the latter was recognized as a separate species by the American Ornithologists' Union in 2011. The common gallinule is also from the Rallidae family and looks very similar to the common moorhen.

Coots are also closely related to the common moorhen, but this species is almost entirely black with a white frontal shield and beak.

Water rails are also in the same family as moorhens, but they are brown and gray in color with a long dark beak.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the blue winged teal, or the limpkin.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our duck coloring pages.

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Written by Mina Frost

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics, Master of Arts specializing in Investigative Reporting

Mina Frost picture

Mina FrostBachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics, Master of Arts specializing in Investigative Reporting

Based in London, Mina enjoys discovering novel activities, places, and adventures to fill her days with. She has a Bachelor's degree in Linguistics from the University of Cambridge and a Masters's degree in Investigative Reporting from the Birbeck, University of London. Alongside this, she has a keen interest in children's literature and regularly shares her passion for culture with the children she babysits, making sure to keep up-to-date with the latest family movies, plays, and exhibitions. Having traveled extensively throughout Europe and beyond, Mina has a deep appreciation for exploring new locations and making new connections with people from all walks of life.

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Fact-checked by Shray Sharma

Bachelor of Technology specializing in Computer Science Engineering

Shray Sharma picture

Shray SharmaBachelor of Technology specializing in Computer Science Engineering

As an aspiring web and app developer, Shray has a passion for working with promising startups. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Maharaja Surajmal Institute Of Technology while gaining experience in digital marketing. Shray has already earned a Google Analytics Certification and is well-equipped to handle analytics and data management tasks. He has also served as a marketing manager at Parallax Virtual Arts, where he oversaw the company's social media, content, and SEO strategies. Shray's goal is to create engaging content that resonates with audiences and offers valuable insights.

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