Bird: Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

Height: 14"

Description: Dark bird with a bright red forehead shield. Red forehead shield merges with yellow-tipped bill. Feathers on wings are brownish; white streaks along side and on outer part of tail. Forehead shield becomes dull red in the winter. Feet are large and yellowish-green and are not webbed. Toes are long and end in a sharp claw. Immature birds are brown overall and lack red forehead patch. They are distinguished from the immature Purple Gallinule by the white streak on their side.

Voice: Common Moorhens are noisy at Wakodahatchee. One common call sounds like a cackling female laugh, or like the noise at the beginning of the surf-rock song "wipeout." Audio is available at

Common Moorhen 2

Feeding: Swim on the surface or dive to eat aquatic plants. Will eat insects, as well as seeds and fruits.

Behavior at Wakodahatchee: Common Moorhens are very prevalent at Wakodahatchee and they make more than their share of noise. They trumpet at each other and grunt and cluck. Some of their calls sound like a hinge that needs to be oiled and other sound like the calls of monkeys in the rain forests of the Amazon. Their most impressive calls are usually during aggressive chases, but other peaceful Moorhens will respond with the same call even though they are not part of the action. It has been suggested to me that the calls become especially passionate when it is time to drive the maturing young away from the flock. The male Moorhen builds the nest and may build several. Several broods are hatched throughout the summer. The chicks are jet black. Female Moorhens will only feed their own chicks and will ignore orphaned tag-alongs.

Common Moorhen 1

Click here for more information on the Common Moorhen from

The Common Moorhen is one of the birds at Wakodahatchee that has duckweed as a staple of its summer and early winter diet. Many people, referring to the natural summer duckweed blooms at Wakodahatchee, have asked me what that "horrible, ugly algae" is. Duckweed is an important part of the wetland environment, and is a food source for wildlife. If you look closely you will see that it does not resemble algae, and the bloom is made up of millions of individual, tiny leaves.

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