Key facts

Scientific name: Gallinula chloropus

Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 270,000 pairs

Wintering birds: 330,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 30 – 35 cm

Wingspan: 50 – 55 cm

Weight: 250 – 400 g


Moorhens are medium-sized and appear black with a red and yellow beak, red frontal shield and long, green legs.

Up close they have a dark brown back and wings with a blue-black belly and white stripes on their flanks.

Juvenile moorhens are brown and don’t have the red frontal shield.


Male and female moorhens build their saucer-shaped nests from twigs, coarse stems and grass lined with softer materials.

Moorhens lay up to 21 smooth and glossy, greyish-white eggs with reddish-brown markings. Both sexes incubate the eggs for up to 19-22 days and chicks fledge at 42-49 days.

Moorhens are generally monogamous and pair bonds can last for several years.


Moorhens eat both plants and animals including molluscs, worms, insects, tadpoles and other birds’ eggs.


Where to see them

Moorhens can be found by ponds, lake or stream. They live in towns and cities as well as the countryside

They inhabit all of the UK but are scarce in northern Scotland and the uplands of Wales.


Fernand Deroussen/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Moorhens have long toes that make it possible to walk on soft mud and floating vegetation, so it can sometimes appear they are walking on water.

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