Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Order: Gruiformes Family: Rallidae Status: Breeding in Madeira

Recommended birdwatching tours to watch this bird

Full-day birdwatching

Common Moorhen Field ID Keys

Shape & Size

This is a medium-small sized waterbird with long legs and toes.

Colour Pattern

Common Moorhens have brownish-black bodies with a white diagonal stripe on both sides of the body and a white patch under the tail. The bright red bill extends over the front part of the face, is short and has a yellow tip. Feet and toes are greenish yellow. There are no differences in appearance between adults though the young birds have brownish bodies and dull greenish yellow bill.


It swims like a duck and walks on land, running for cover like rails or crakes.


This bird is found all over the world except in Australia and in cold countries. The Common Moorhen is always associated to freshwater areas, generally with dense vegetation and other types of aquatic birds. In Madeira and Porto Santo islands it can be seen alongside some freshwater streams, reservoirs and ponds.

Gallinula chloropus Biometrics

Wingspan: 50 - 55 cm (Beaman & Madge, 2011)
Total length: 32 - 35 cm (Beaman & Madge, 2011)
Weight: 250 - 420 g (Hume, 2002)

Other Bird Facts

Seasonality in Madeira: All year
Breeding: It was first recorded breeding at Lugar de Baixo pond, Madeira, in April 1999 (Fagundes & Nunes, 2003) and later it started nesting in Porto Santo as well. Before that it was an occasional wintering bird to both islands.
The bird builds its nest next to water, in a roofed basket covered with leaves and branches. The Moorhen lays between 4 and 10 eggs at a time with 3 clutches being possible annually between April and August. The incubation period lasts for about 3 weeks and the chicks are relatively large when they hatch.
Diet: It feeds on plants, roots, weeds, snails and insects.


Madeira local status by Correia-Fagundes et al, 2021: Rare breeding bird
Madeira local status by Romano et al, 2010: Rare breeding bird
Madeira local status by Zino et al, 1995: Occasional vagrant bird
Conservation status by the IUCN Red List Categories, 2013: Least Concern ver 3.1

Name of this species in other languages

Portuguese: Galinha-d'água
German: Teichhuhn
Dutch: Waterhoen
Swedish: Rörhöna
Danish: Grønbenet Rørhøne
Finish: Liejukana
Norwegian: Sivhøne
Spanish: Gallineta Común
French: Gallinule poule-d'eau
Italian: Gallinella d'acqua
Polish: Kokoszka
Slovak: Sliepočka vodná
Czech: Slípka zelenonohá
English synonyms: Common Gallinule

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