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Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus


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Common Moorhen, summer
credit: USGS

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Alternate name: Common Gallinule

Family: Rallidae, Rails, Gallinules, Coots view all from this family

Description ADULT Can look all-dark, but has dark blue-gray head, neck, and underparts, and brownish back, wings, and tail. Note the yellow-tipped red bill, red frontal shield on forehead, and yellowish legs and toes. Sides of undertail are white; note white line on flanks. JUVENILE Grayish brown, but with white on throat, sides of undertail coverts, and on flanks.

Dimensions Length: 13" (33 cm)

Habitat Favors well-vegetated freshwater (sometimes brackish) wetlands. Present year-round in many coastal states but summer breeding range extends north and present there mainly May-Sep.

Observation Tips Not unduly shy and easy to see.

Range Eastern Canada, Florida, Southeast, New England, Southwest, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, Texas, Plains, California

Voice Utters a far-carrying kurrrk.

Discussion Dark-looking wetland bird that swims with jerky movements and flicks its tail constantly. Flight looks labored with dangling legs. Very long toes allow it to walk on soft mud and on floating plant debris. Feeds on aquatic invertebrates and plants. Sexes are similar.