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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Dark gray to almost black in color, with a duller chin and throat. This species has white on the edges of the wings and rump. Legs are bright yellow-green. The bill of this species is yellow with a frontal shield that is bright red.

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Distribution

Geographic Range

Common moorhens are widely distributed. In the United States, they are found year-round in California, Arizona, New Mexico and the Atlantic and Gulf coast states. They migrate and breed in the eastern half of the United States during the summer. They are also found throughout Mexico and Central America. The Common Moorhen is also found in South America, its range cutting through the middle of the continent from Brazil to Argentina and Peru. This species is also found year-round throughout Europe except Northern Scandinavia. From Europe it is migratory into Russia during the summer months. It is found also in India and the southern half of Asia south to the Philippine Islands. In Africa this species is only found in the area of South Africa, Madagascar, a large section of the Congo and Algeria.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • Taylor, B. 1998. Rails: A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World. United Kingdom: Yale University Press.
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Geographic Range

Common moorhens are widely distributed. In the United States, they are found year-round in California, Arizona, New Mexico and the Atlantic and Gulf coast states. They migrate and breed in the eastern half of the United States during the summer. They are also found throughout Mexico and Central America. The Common Moorhen is also found in South America, its range cutting through the middle of the continent from Brazil to Argentina and Peru. This species is also found year-round throughout Europe except Northern Scandinavia. From Europe it is migratory into Russia during the summer months. It is found also in India and the southern half of Asia south to the Philippine Islands. In Africa this species is only found in the area of South Africa, Madagascar, a large section of the Congo and Algeria.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • Taylor, B. 1998. Rails: A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World. United Kingdom: Yale University Press.
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Subspecies and Distribution:


    * chloropus (Linnaeus, 1758) - Europe, North Africa, Azores, Canaries and Cape Verde Is E through W, C & S Asia to Japan, S to Sri Lanka and C Malaysia; N populations winter S to Mediterranean region, sub-Saharan Africa and S Asia. * meridionalis (C. L. Brehm, 1831) - sub-Saharan Africa and St Helena. * pyrrhorrhoa A. Newton, 1861 - Madagascar, Reunion, Mauritius and Comoros Is. * orientalis Horsfield, 1821 - Seychelles, Andamans, S Malaysia and Greater & W Lesser Sundas to Philippines and Palau Is. * guami Hartert, 1917 - Northern Mariana Is. * ndvicensis Streets, 1877 - Hawaiian Is. * cachinnans Bangs, 1915 - SE Canada and USA through Central America to W Panama, also Bermuda and Galapagos; N populations winter S to Panama and possibly beyond. * cerceris Bangs, 1910 - Greater & Lesser Antilles. * barbadensis Bond, 1954 - Barbados. * pauxilla Bangs, 1915 - E Panama, N & W Colombia, W Ecuador and coastal NW Peru. * garmani Allen, 1876 - Andes of Peru, Chile, Bolivia and NW Argentina. * aleata (Lichtenstein, 1818) - Trinidad and the Guianas S through Brazil to N Argentina and Uruguay.


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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

A medium to large sized gallinule. Dark gray to almost black in color, with a duller chin and throat. This species has white on the edges of the wings and rump. Legs are bright yellow-green. The bill of this species is yellow with a frontal shield that is bright red.

Range mass: 192 to 493 g.

Average mass: 300 g.

Range length: 30 to 38 cm.

Range wingspan: 50 to 55 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

  • Davis, B. 1997. A Field Guide to Birds of the Desert Southwest. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Company.
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Physical Description

A medium to large sized gallinule. Dark gray to almost black in color, with a duller chin and throat. This species has white on the edges of the wings and rump. Legs are bright yellow-green. The bill of this species is yellow with a frontal shield that is bright red.

Range mass: 192 to 493 g.

Average mass: 300 g.

Range length: 30 to 38 cm.

Range wingspan: 50 to 55 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

  • Davis, B. 1997. A Field Guide to Birds of the Desert Southwest. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Company.
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Size

Mass: 192 to 493 g; avg. 300 g Length: 30 to 38 cm; avg. 34 cm Wingspan: 50 to 55 cm; avg. 52.50 cm. A medium to large sized gallinule.

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Diagnostic Description

Dark gray to almost black in color, with a duller chin and throat. This species has white on the edges of the wings and rump. Legs are bright yellow-green. The bill of this species is yellow with a frontal shield that is bright red.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour This species is predominantly sedentary or locally dispersive, but makes partially or fully migratory movements in the northern parts of its range due to its vulnerability to freezing conditions (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Most northern populations move south from September to December, returning again from March to May (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species breeds in solitary territorial pairs during the spring, especially during wet months (the exact timing varying geographically) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It remains largely solitary throughout the year although juveniles and adults may form diurnal feeding groups of up to 30 individuals in the winter, especially during hard weather (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), often congregating on sheltered lakes and ponds (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat The species inhabits freshwater wetlands, both still and moving, requiring easy access to open water (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and showing a preference for waters sheltered by woodland, bushes or tall emergent vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Suitable habitats include slow-flowing rivers (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998), oxbow lakes (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), streams, canals, ditches, lakes, reservoirs, sites with small open water surfaces such as pools and ponds only a few metres across, swamps, marshes (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998), seasonally flooded sites (del Hoyo et al. 1996) such as flood-plains (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), disused gravel pits, rice-fields (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998), sewage ponds (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), and occasionally mangroves (Puerto Rico)and seashores (Azerbaijan) (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It generally avoids very open sites (especially those exposed to wind or wave action) (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998) and oligotrophic or saline habitats (although it may be found on brackish waters) (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). When foraging the species may range onto drier grassland, agricultural land or meadows, and on migration and in the winter months it can often be observed on damp grassland away from water (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Diet The species is omnivorous and opportunistic, its diet consisting of earthworms, crustaceans, molluscs, adult and larval insects (especially flies, mayflies, caddisflies, bugs, beetles and Lepidoptera), spiders, small fish, tadpoles and occasionally birds eggs, as well as plant matter such as filamentous algae, moss, the vegetative parts of reeds and aquatic plants, the seeds of reeds, rushes, sedges, water-lilies, waterside herbaceous vegetation, trees (Ulmus spp.) and cereal crops, flowers of Eichhornia spp., and the berries and fruits of yew, Rubus, Sorbus, Rosa, Crataegus, Rhamnus, Hedera, Sambucus, Hippophae spp. and various orchard trees (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest varies between a shallow saucer and a deep cup constructed from twigs and waterside vegetation, and can be floating on or positioned up to 1 m above water in emergent vegetation, or positioned on a solid platform of branches in water. Less often the nest is placed in ground vegetation or in low bushes on the bank near water, or in bushes and trees up to 8 m from the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Management information Early harvesting in rice-fields should be avoided as it harms nests and young broods of this species (Taylor and van Perlo 1998).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Common moorhens are found in many aquatic environments- man-made or natural, and in still or moving water. This species is partial to emergent aquatic vegetation which gives it adequate shelter.  They are generally found in lowlands, up to 4575 m on passage though Nepal.

Range elevation: 0 to 4575 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Common moorhens are found in many aquatic environments- man-made or natural, and in still or moving water. This species is partial to emergent aquatic vegetation which gives it adequate shelter.  They are generally found in lowlands, up to 4575 m on passage though Nepal.

Range elevation: 0 to 4575 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Common moorhens are found in many aquatic environments- man-made or natural, and in still or moving water. This species is partial to emergent aquatic vegetation which gives it adequate shelter. They are generally found in lowlands, up to 4575 m on passage though Nepal.

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Common moorhens feed while floating in water or walking on plants. In water the bird feeds by dipping its head and "surface sifting". It is an opportunistic feeder, which means that it eats the most abundant foods available. This species also feeds on land, gleaning insects or grazing for vegetation, cereals, or fruits.

Animal Foods: amphibians; fish; eggs; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers; bryophytes; algae

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Food Habits

Common moorhens feed while floating in water or walking on plants. In water the bird feeds by dipping its head and "surface sifting". It is an opportunistic feeder, which means that it eats the most abundant foods available. This species also feeds on land, gleaning insects or grazing for vegetation, cereals, or fruits.

Animal Foods: amphibians; fish; eggs; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers; bryophytes; algae

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Common moorhens feed while floating in water or walking on plants. In water the bird feeds by dipping its head and ""surface sifting"". It is an opportunistic feeder, which means that it eats the most abundant foods available. This species also feeds on land, gleaning insects or grazing for vegetation, cereals, or fruits.

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Species Used as Host:

  • Intraspecific parasitism: Host to its own species. (Taylor, 1998)

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Predation

Predators of adults are not specifically recorded. Predation is usually found during hatching and fledging. The charging attack is the most exploited tactic to discourage predators from taking young. The adult charges an intruder with its head held down. If the predator is too large to fend off, common moorhens will often flee and hide. This species has also been observed remaining submerged in water in the presence of a threat.

Known Predators:

  • pythons (Boidae)
  • large frogs (Anura)
  • largemouth bass (Micropterus_salmoides)
  • water moccasins (Agkistrodon_piscivorus)
  • raccoons (Procyon_lotor)
  • gray foxes (Urocyon_cinereoargenteus)
  • American alligators (Alligator_mississipiensis)
  • boat-tailed grackles (Quiscalus_major)
  • rooks (Corvus_frugilegus)

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Animal / parasite / endoparasite
fluke of Cyclocoelum endoparasitises lung of Gallinula chloropus

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
fluke of Echinoparyphium recurvatum endoparasitises small intestine of Gallinula chloropus

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
fluke of Notocotylus gibbus endoparasitises caecum of Gallinula chloropus

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Ecosystem Roles

Species Used as Host:

  • Intraspecific parasitism: Host to its own species. (Taylor, 1998)

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Predation

Predators of adults are not specifically recorded. Predation is usually found during hatching and fledging. The charging attack is the most exploited tactic to discourage predators from taking young. The adult charges an intruder with its head held down. If the predator is too large to fend off, common moorhens will often flee and hide. This species has also been observed remaining submerged in water in the presence of a threat.

Known Predators:

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Known predators

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Known prey organisms

Gallinula chloropus preys on:
non-insect arthropods
Actinopterygii
Bryophyta
algae
Arthropoda
Insecta
Amphibia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

This species is territorial; therefore females use many antagonistic displays toward other females. A display of this species is seen as the low posture and the half opening the wings. After competition is finished, the female engages in bill dipping with the male, which signals courtship rituals. The female will also communicate acoustically that she is ready to mate with a murmur call.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Communication and Perception

This species is territorial; therefore females use many antagonistic displays toward other females. A display of this species is seen as the low posture and the half opening the wings. After competition is finished, the female engages in bill dipping with the male, which signals courtship rituals. The female will also communicate acoustically that she is ready to mate with a murmur call.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Common moorhens are fairly susceptible to nest predation or predation at a young age. The majority of birds die within the first year, and many of the remaining birds die in the second year.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
11 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
126 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Common moorhens are fairly susceptible to nest predation or predation at a young age. The majority of birds die within the first year, and many of the remaining birds die in the second year.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
11 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
126 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 18.6 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Common moorhen mating behavior is unusual. Female competes in antagonistic behaviors with other females for copulation with males. The dominant female will chase the male in a courtship behavior. Copulation occurs on land and not in water.

Mating System: monogamous

Breeding occurs at any time in tropical regions and during warmer seasons of the year elsewhere. Typically, 5 to 9 eggs are produced.

Breeding season: Breeding season varies depending on latitude.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 12.

Range time to hatching: 17 to 22 days.

Average time to hatching: 20 days.

Range fledging age: 42 to 70 days.

Average fledging age: 50 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 12 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 12 months.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average eggs per season: 9.

Incubation takes from 17 to 22 days, with a clutch size of 2 to 17. The male is reported to feed the female during incubation. Male moorhens are the prime incubator, but both sexes participate in incubation. Chicks upon hatching are precocial and nidifugous. These chicks are cared for and fed by both parents.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Taylor, B. 1998. Rails: A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World. United Kingdom: Yale University Press.
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Common moorhen mating behavior is unusual. Female competes in antagonistic behaviors with other females for copulation with males. The dominant female will chase the male in a courtship behavior. Copulation occurs on land and not in water.

Mating System: monogamous

Breeding occurs at any time in tropical regions and during warmer seasons of the year elsewhere. Typically, 5 to 9 eggs are produced.

Breeding season: Breeding season varies depending on latitude.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 12.

Range time to hatching: 17 to 22 days.

Average time to hatching: 20 days.

Range fledging age: 42 to 70 days.

Average fledging age: 50 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 12 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 12 months.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average eggs per season: 9.

Incubation takes from 17 to 22 days, with a clutch size of 2 to 17. The male is reported to feed the female during incubation. Male moorhens are the prime incubator, but both sexes participate in incubation. Chicks upon hatching are precocial and nidifugous. These chicks are cared for and fed by both parents.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Taylor, B. 1998. Rails: A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World. United Kingdom: Yale University Press.
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Breeding occurs at any time in tropical regions and during warmer seasons of the year elsewhere. Typically, 5 to 9 eggs are produced.Incubation takes from 17 to 22 days, with a clutch size of 2 to 17. The male is reported to feed the female during incubation. Male moorhens are the prime incubator, but both sexes participate in incubation. Chicks upon hatching are precocial and nidifugous. These chicks are cared for and fed by both parents.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Gallinula chloropus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 22
Specimens with Barcodes: 31
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Gallinula chloropus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 15 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACTTTACCTAATTTTCGGGGCCTGAGCCGGCATAATTGGTACCGCCCTCAGCCTACTTATCCGAGCAGAACTAGGACAGCCCGGCAGCCTCCTAGGAGATGACCAAATCTATAATGTAATCGTCACCGCCCACGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTTATAGTAATACCAATCATAATTGGAGGCTTCGGCAACTGACTAGTACCTCTCATAATCGGAGCCCCAGACATAGCATTTCCTCGCATAAACAATATAAGCTTCTGACTCCTTCCCCCCTCCTTCCTGCTCCTCCTAGCATCCTCCATAGTAGAGGCAGGAGCAGGTACAGGTTGAACAGTCTATCCCCCACTAGCCGGCAACCTAGCACACGCAGGTGCTTCAGTAGACCTAGCTATCTTCTCCCTCCACTTAGCAGGAGTCTCATCTATCCTAGGTGCCATCAATTTCATCACAACTGCCATCAACATAAAACCACCAGCCCTATCCCAATATCAAACCCCACTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTCATTACTGCCGTTCTACTACTACTATCCCTCCCCGTCCTTGCCGCTGGCATTACCATGCTACTTACTGACCGAAACCTAAACACCACATTCTTTGACCCAGCAGGAGGAGGAGATCCTATCCTGTACCAGCACCTTTTCTGATTCTTTGGCCACCCNNAAGTNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Common moorhens are currently endangered in Hawaii (Hawaiian common moorhen, Gallinula_chloropus_sandvicensis), Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands (Mariana common moorhen, Gallinula_chloropus_guami). In Hawaii this species was present on all five of the major islands, but is now only present on two. This is due to destruction and lack of good habitat for the birds. Other subspecies are not threatened or endangered. (Taylor, 1998; U.S. Fish and Wildlife, 2002). Common moorhens are listed as special concern in the state of Michigan.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: special concern

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Common moorhens are currently endangered in Hawaii (Hawaiian common moorhen, Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis), Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands (Mariana common moorhen, Gallinula chloropus guami). In Hawaii this species was present on all five of the major islands, but is now only present on two. This is due to destruction and lack of good habitat for the birds. Other subspecies are not threatened or endangered. (Taylor, 1998; U.S. Fish and Wildlife, 2002). Common moorhens are listed as special concern in the state of Michigan.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: special concern

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Status in Egypt

Resident breeder, regular passage visitor and winter visitor.

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© Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Source: Bibliotheca Alexandrina - EOL Ar

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Not Threatened.

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© New Guinea Birds

Source: Birds of Papua New Guinea

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Population

Population
The global population is estimated to number c.3,900,000-8,100,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: c.100,000-1 million breeding pairs and > c.10,000 individuals on migration in China; c.100,000-1 million breeding pairs in Taiwan; c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Korea; c.100,000-1 million breeding pairs and >c.10,000 individuals on migration in Japan and c.100,000-1 million breeding pairs and > c.10,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Population Trend
Unknown
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© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

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Threats

Major Threats
The species is susceptible to avian influenza (Melville and Shortridge 2006, Gaidet et al. 2007) and avian botulism (Forrester et al. 1980), so may be threatened by future outbreaks of these diseases. It also suffers nest predation from American mink Neovison vison in the UK (Ferreras and MacDonald 1999). Utilisation The species is hunted for local consumption and trade in Sumatra (Taylor and van Perlo 1998) and Malawi (Bhima 2006), for sport in the USA (Taylor and van Perlo 1998) , and for commercial and recreational purposes in Gilan Province, northern Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006).
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© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

In some areas of the world the common moorhens are seen as a pest to crops. This species is an opportunistic feeder, which makes use of grain for food. In some instances they will feed in groups in agricultural areas.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

In some areas of the world the common moorhens are seen as a pest to crops. This species is an opportunistic feeder, which makes use of grain for food. In some instances they will feed in groups in agricultural areas.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

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Wikipedia

Common Moorhen

The Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (also known as the "swamp chicken"[2]) is bird species in the Rallidae family. It is distributed across many parts of the Old World.[3]

The Common Moorhen lives around well-vegetated marshes, ponds, canals and other wetlands. The species is not found in the polar regions or many tropical rainforests. Elsewhere it is likely the most common rail species, except for the Eurasian Coot in some regions.

The closely related Common Gallinule of the New World has been recognized as a separate species by most authorities,[3] starting with the American Ornithologists' Union and the International Ornithological Committee in 2011.[4]

Name[edit]

The name mor-hen has been recorded in English since the 13th century.[5] The word moor here is an old sense meaning marsh;[5] the species is not usually found in moorland. An older name, Common Waterhen, is more descriptive of the bird's habitat.

A "Watercock" is not a male "Waterhen" but the rail species Gallicrex cinerea, not closely related to the Common Moorhen. "Water Rail" usually refers to Rallus aquaticus, again not closely related.

The scientific name Gallinula chloropus comes from the Latin Gallinula (a small hen or chicken) and the Greek chloropus (khloros χλωρός green or yellow, pous πούς foot).[6]

Description and ecology[edit]

Common Moorhen feet have no webbing

The Moorhen is a distinctive species, with dark plumage apart from the white undertail, yellow legs and a red frontal shield. The young are browner and lack the red shield. The frontal shield of the adult has a rounded top and fairly parallel sides; the tailward margin of the red unfeathered area is a smooth waving line. In the related Common Gallinule of the Americas, the frontal shield has a fairly straight top and is less wide towards the bill, giving a marked indentation to the back margin of the red area.

The Common Moorhen gives a wide range of gargling calls and will emit loud hisses when threatened.[7] A midsized to large rail, it can range from 30 to 38 cm (12 to 15 in) in length and span 50 to 62 cm (20 to 24 in) across the wings. The body mass of this species can range from 192 to 500 g (6.8 to 17.6 oz).[8][9]

This is a common breeding bird in marsh environments and well-vegetated lakes. Populations in areas where the waters freeze, such as eastern Europe, will migrate to more temperate climes. This species will consume a wide variety of vegetable material and small aquatic creatures. They forage beside or in the water, sometimes walking on lilypads or upending in the water to feed. They are often secretive, but can become tame in some areas. Despite loss of habitat in parts of its range, the Common Moorhen remains plentiful and widespread.

The birds are territorial during breeding season. The nest is a basket built on the ground in dense vegetation. Laying starts in spring, between mid-March and mid-May in N hemisphere temperate regions. About 8 eggs are usually laid per female early in the season; a brood later in the year usually has only 5–8 or fewer eggs. Nests may be re-used by different females. Incubation lasts about three weeks. Both parents incubate and feed the young. These fledge after 40–50 days, become independent usually a few weeks thereafter, and may raise their first brood the next spring. When threatened, the young may cling to the parents' body, after which the adult birds fly away to safety, carrying their offspring with them.[7][10]

On a global scale – all subspecies taken together – the Common Moorhen is as abundant as its vernacular name implies. It is therefore considered a species of Least Concern by the IUCN.[1][1] However, small populations may be prone to extinction. The population of Palau, belonging to the widespread subspecies G. c. orientalis and locally known as debar (a generic term also used for ducks and meaning roughly "waterfowl"), is very rare, and apparently the birds are hunted by locals. Most of the population on the archipelago occurs on Angaur and Peleliu, while the species is probably already gone from Koror. In the Lake Ngardok wetlands of Babeldaob, a few dozen still occur, but the total number of Common Moorhens on Palau is about in the same region as the Guam population: fewer than 100 adult birds (usually fewer than 50) have been encountered in any survey.[11]

The Common Moorhen is one of the birds (the other is the Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra) from which the cyclocoelid flatworm parasite Cyclocoelum mutabile was first described.[12] The bird is also parasitised by the moorhen flea, Dasypsyllus gallinulae.[13]

Subspecies[edit]

Five subspecies are today considered valid; several more have been described that are now considered junior synonyms. Most are not very readily recognizable, as differences are rather subtle and often clinal. Usually, the location of a sighting is the most reliable indication as to subspecies identification, but the migratory tendencies of this species make identifications based on location not completely reliable. In addition to the extant subspecies listed below, an undescribed form from the Early Pleistocene is recorded from Dursunlu in Turkey.[14][15][16]

List of subspecies by date of description
Common and
trinomial names
DescriptionRange
Eurasian Common Moorhen
G. c. chloropus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Includes correiana and indica.
Moorhen 1c (5370646255).jpg
Wings and back blackish-oliveRanges from Northwest Europe to North Africa and eastwards to Central Siberia and from the humid regions of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia eastwards to Japan; also found the Canary, Azores, Madeira, and Cape Verde islands.
Indo-Pacific Common Moorhen
G. c. orientalis (Horsfield, 1821)
Small, with slate grey upperwing coverts and large frontal shield.Found in the Seychelles, Andaman Islands, and South Malaysia through Indonesia; also found in the Philippines and Palau. The breeding population existing on Yap in Micronesia since the 1980s is probably of this subspecies, but might be of the rare G. c. guami.[17][18]
Population size: Perhaps a few 100s on Palau as of the early 2000s,[11] less than 100 on Yap as of the early 2000s.[17][18]
African Common Moorhen
G. c. meridionalis (C. L. Brehm, 1831)
Gallinula chloropus meridionalis Marievale 3.jpg
Similar to orientalis, but the frontal shield is smaller.Found in Sub-Saharan Africa and Saint Helena.
Madagascan Common Moorhen
G. c. pyrrhorrhoa (A. Newton, 1861)
Gallinula chloropus pyrrhorrhoa Mauritius.jpg
Similar to meridionalis, but the undertail coverts are buff.Found on the islands of Madagascar, Réunion, Mauritius, and the Comoros.
Mariana Common Moorhen
G. c. guami (Hartert, 1917)
Called pulattat in Chamorro.
Body plumage is very dark.Endemic to the Northern Mariana Islands, but see also G. c. orientalis above.
Population size: About 300 as of 2001.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c BirdLife International (2012). "Gallinula chloropus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ The Common Moorhen. Scienceray (2010-07-16). Retrieved on 2013-02-25.
  3. ^ a b "Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (Linnaeus, 1758)". Avibase. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  4. ^ Chesser, R. Terry, Richard C. Banks, F. Keith Barker, Carla Cicero, Jon L. Dunn, Andrew W. Kratter, Irby J. Lovette, Pamela C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen, James D. Rising, Douglas F. Stotz, Kevin Winker (2011). "Fifty-second supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-List of North American Birds". Auk 128 (3): 600–613. doi:10.1525/auk.2011.128.3.600. 
  5. ^ a b Lockwood, W B (1993). The Oxford Dictionary of British Bird Names. OUP. ISBN 978-0-19-866196-2. 
  6. ^ Jobling, James A (1991). A Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. OUP. ISBN 0-19-854634-3. 
  7. ^ a b Snow, David W.; Perrins, Christopher M.; Doherty, Paul & Cramp, Stanley (1998). The Complete Birds of the Western Palaearctic on CD-ROM. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-268579-1. 
  8. ^ Common moorhen videos, photos and facts – Gallinula chloropus. ARKive. Retrieved on 2013-02-25.
  9. ^ Common Gallinule, Life History, All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Allaboutbirds.org. Retrieved on 2013-02-25.
  10. ^ Mann, Clive F. (1991). "Sunda Frogmouth Batrachostomus cornutus carrying its young". Forktail 6: 77–78. 
  11. ^ a b VanderWerf, Eric A.; Wiles, Gary J.; Marshall, Ann P. & Knecht, Melia (2006). "Observations of migrants and other birds in Palau, April–May 2005, including the first Micronesian record of a Richard's Pipit". Micronesica 39 (1): 11–29. 
  12. ^ Dronen, Norman O.; Gardner, Scott L. & Jiménez, F. Agustín (2006). "Selfcoelum limnodromi n. gen., n. sp. (Digenea: Cyclocoelidae: Cyclocoelinae) from the long-billed dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus (Charadriiformes: Scolopacidae) from Oklahoma, U.S.A". Zootaxa 1131: 49–58. 
  13. ^ Rothschild, Miriam; Clay, Theresa (1953). Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos. A study of bird parasites. London: Collins. p. 113. 
  14. ^ McCoy, John J. (1963). "The fossil avifauna of Itchtucknee (sic) River, Florida". Auk 80 (3): 335–351. doi:10.2307/4082892. 
  15. ^ Olson, Storrs L. (1974). "The Pleistocene Rails of North America". Condor 76 (2): 169–175. doi:10.2307/1366727. 
  16. ^ Louchart, Antoine; Mourer-Chauviré, Cécile; Guleç, Erksin; Howell, Francis Clark & White, Tim D. (1998). "L'avifaune de Dursunlu, Turquie, Pléistocène inférieur: climat, environnement et biogéographie [The avfauna of Dursunlu, Turkey, Lower Pleistocene: climate, environment and biogeography]". Les Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences IIA 327 (5): 341–346. doi:10.1016/S1251-8050(98)80053-0. 
  17. ^ a b Wiles, Gary J.; Worthington, David J.; Beck, Robert E. Jr.; Pratt, H. Douglas; Aguon, Celestino F. & Pyle, Robert L. (2000). "Noteworthy Bird Records for Micronesia, with a Summary of Raptor Sightings in the Mariana Islands, 1988–1999". Micronesica 32 (2): 257–284. 
  18. ^ a b Wiles, Gary J.; Johnson, Nathan C.; de Cruz, Justine B.; Dutson, Guy; Camacho, Vicente A.; Kepler, Angela Kay; Vice, Daniel S.; Garrett, Kimball L.; Kessler, Curt C. & Pratt, H. Douglas (2004). "New and Noteworthy Bird Records for Micronesia, 1986–2003". Micronesica 37 (1): 69–96. 
  19. ^ Takano, Leilani L. & Haig, Susan M. (2004). "Distribution and Abundance of the Mariana Subspecies of the Common Moorhen". Waterbirds 27 (2): 245–250. doi:10.1675/1524-4695(2004)027[0245:DAAOTM]2.0.CO;2. 
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