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A familiar species of fresh water habitats often seen feeding on land.

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Moorhen: the moron

Although the moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) and the coot superficially look very similar (and they are both members of the rail family) they are quite different. To look at, the moorhen appears black but, on closer examination, is in fact a dark reddish brown and has a red beak and frontal shield. The moorhen also has highly visible white flashes in its wings and especially in its tail. From a distance you can tell a moorhen from a coot because of its different shape. It is a more slender bird and has a much more pronounced fan shaped tail. The feet of moorhen are less padded that those of a coot and that reflects the fact that they spend less time on muddy surfaces and more time on grassy river banks and other harder surfaces. 

The moorhen is quite common as it is an adaptable bird, always found near water but any patch of water that is surrounded by vegetation will do be that a river, pond or marsh and it can even appear in parks and large gardens. It does have a preference for fresh water rather than saline.
Less gregarious than a coot and less inclined to look for conflict it is a shy bird, easily alarmed if taken by surprise and yet quite tame and will feed happily whilst you walk nearby provided it knows you are there.  


Birders call this the 'moron', which reflects the closeness of the names not the nature of the animal.


Common Name Moorhen
Scientific Name Gallinula chloropus
Species Group Birds Rails and cranes
Status Frequent
Interest Level
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Look for

The white in the fanned tail and also in the wing

Identification Notes
  • They are not actually black but a dark brown and have distinctive white flashes, most noticeably in the tail which they display frequently
  • The have a red shield above the beak rather than the white if its close cousin, the coot
  • A fresh water bird seen mainly along slow moving rivers and next to shallow lakes and ponds   
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Rails and cranes