Dusky Moorhen

Quick Facts

Length: 38 cm
Height: -
Weight: -
Colour: Dark grey-black with white undertail. Red bill with yellow tip
Habitat: Wetlands - swamps, rivers, artificial waterways.
Food: Algae, water plants and grasses, seeds, fruits, molluscs and other invertebrates. Carrion and the dr
Predators: -
Status: Secure in NSW, QLD, SA, VIC & WA. Not Present in NT and TAS
Dusky Moorhen

The Dusky Moorhen is a medium-sized, dark grey-black water bird with a white undertail. It has a red bill with a yellow tip and a red facial shield. Young birds are much duller and browner than adults, with a greenish bill and face shield.

Two other water hen species are similar to the Dusky Moorhen but can be easily distinguished. The similarly-sized Eurasian Coot, has a white bill and face shield and a red eye. The Purple Swamphen is much larger and has a distinct purple-blue colouring.

The Dusky Moorhen is found from Indonesia through New Guinea to Australia. It is widespread in eastern and south-western Australia, ranging from Cooktown to eastern South Australia and in the southern corner of Western Australia.

The Dusky Moorhen is found in wetlands, including swamps, rivers, and artificial waterways. It prefers open water and water margins with reeds, rushes and waterlilies, but may be found on grasses close to water such as parks, pastures and lawns.

The Dusky Moorhen feeds in the water and on land on algae, water plants and grasses, as well as seeds, fruits, molluscs and other invertebrates. It will also eat carrion (dead animals) and the droppings of other birds. It does not dive when feeding; its tail is always visible above the water when upended.

During breeding season, the Dusky Moorhen forms breeding groups of two to seven birds, with all members defending territory, building nests and looking after young. The shallow platform nests are made of reeds and other water plants over water, among reeds or on floating platforms in open water. Two or more females will lay their eggs in the same nest and all members of the group help to incubate the eggs and feed the young.

The Dusky Moorhen has been favoured by artificial water sources such as dams, ponds and lakes in parks and gardens and associated grassy areas. However, wetland drainage in other areas may have negative impacts.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Wednesday 8th January, 2014


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