The Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
The Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) belongs to the Crake, Rail and Coot family (Rallidae) and is widely distributed in Europe, Africa, Asia, Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia, Philippines and Indonesia mostly in wetlands, marshes and water bodies with a thick vegetation. Five subspecies of G. chloropus have been recognized. It is a medium sized bird 30 to 38 cms long, weighting 192 to 500 gm and with a wing span of 50 to 62 cms.
The moorhen has black/dark brown plumage with white side streak and a white under trail. The frontal shield is red and the tip of the bill is a characteristic yellow. Legs and toes are long and yellow in color. When swimming and walking it exhibits a characteristic bobbing of the head with jerks. Its flight is usually low over the water with rapid wing beats and legs trailing behind. They may inhabit reed beds, fresh water wetlands, marshes, swamps, flooded pastures, slow flowing rivers, flooded meadows, flood plains, irrigated lands and flooded agricultural fields. They avoid saline habitats. This specimen was observed at a road side heavily contaminated pond with a dense growth of Eichhornia crassipes along with specimens of the Grey headed swamphen and the Bronze winged Jacana. They are omnivorous feeding on plant material and also on the aquatic fauna consisting of small fish, invertebrates, insects, worms and mollusks.
Breeding generally starts with the advent of monsoon. The nest is usually a floating structure on marsh and other aquatic vegetation. Nests have also been reported on bushes and trees almost eight meters from the ground. The populations are mostly resident. The overall population trend is considered stable and the IUCN classified it as a species of least concern.
Acknowledgements-Dr. Yashpal Singh, Mrs. Neena Singh, Mr. Rajesh Bedi, Manoj Kumar Yadav