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7

Dusky Moorhen

(Gallinula tenebrosa)
Alternate name(s): "Black Moorhen", "Black Gallinule"
Aboriginal name(s): "jandindi", "kilkie"

Size: 35-40 cm; wing span 55-60 cm (Australia)
Size:25-32 cm (New Guinea)

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Dusky Moorhen at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "tenebrosa"

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

ADULT

MALE

Frontal view of a Dusky Moorhen; the prominent shield indicates that this is a male

FEMALE

Close-up frontal portrait of a female Dusky Moorhen
[Mudgee, NSW, December 2015]

Close-up frontal portrait of a Dusky Moorhen
[Near Dubbo, NSW, October 2016]

Close-up frontal view of a female Dusky Moorhen
[Mudgee, NSW, December 2015]

Close-up near-lateral view of a female(?) Dusky Moorhen (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)
[Moree, NSW, April 2014]

Close-up near-lateral view of a Dusky Moorhen stretching a leg; here one can see clearly the colouring of the legs and feet
[Near Dubbo, NSW, October 2016]

Close-up lateral view of a Dusky Moorhen (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, August 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a Dusky Moorhen
[Near Dubbo, NSW, October 2016]

Lateral view of a Dusky Moorhen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Lateral view of a swimming Dusky Moorhen (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Lateral view of a swimming Dusky Moorhen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Lateral view of a swimming Dusky Moorhen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Dorsal view of a Dusky Moorhen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Lateral view of a Dusky Moorhen, showing clearly two separate white patches
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2010]

Close-up near-dorsal view of a Dusky Moorhen (photo courtesy of T. Lawrence)
[Canberra, ACT, September 2006]

Hey, stay here! I want to - you know what...
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Direct size comparison between a Dusky Moorhen, left, and an Eurasian Coot, right (photo courtesy of J. Ross-Taylor)
[Gold Coast, QLD, June 2014]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Immature Dusky Moorhen just starting to look like an adult; note the inconspicous colours of the bill and the absence of a facial shield (in the foreground an immature Australasian Grebe)
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, March 2011]

Near-frontal view of an immature Dusky Moorhen
[Mother of Ducks Lagoon, Guyra, NSW, April 2011]

Lateral view of an immature Dusky Moorhen
[Mother of Ducks Lagoon, Guyra, NSW, April 2011]

Lateral view of an immature Dusky Moorhen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2011]

Dear-dorsal view of an immature Dusky Moorhen (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Dear-dorsal view of an immature Dusky Moorhen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2014]

Adult Dusky Moorhen with four juveniles; in total, six juveniles were accompanied by three adults during a foraging array
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2014]

Dusky Moorhen with two chicks
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Dusky Moorhen with one of its two chicks
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2009]

Close-up lateral view of a Dusky Moorhen chick
[Mudgee, NSW, December 2015]

Dorsal view of a Dusky Moorhen chick (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

This chick is afraid it is going to be abandoned - or worse, caught by the photographer...
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2010]

What would YOU do if a U-boat suddenly surfaced next to your offspring?! Dusky Moorhens, with an Hardhead re-surfacing after a dive and a Cattle Egret watching proceedings
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2016]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Nov Eggs: 4 - 9 Incubation period: 22 - 26(?) days Fledging age: ?

Given the right conditions (and depending on geographical latitude), Dusky Moorhens can breed any time of the year. In the southern half of Australia they preferably breed from September to November (see table above); in the North they prefer the dry season, from January to April.

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks Height above ground: N/A

The nest can be floating on water, affixed to a plant, or sit on top of a low, flat object, such as e.g. an old reed stump. Nests are not always well-hidden.

Dusky Moorhen inspecting a stick mound for its suitability for nesting
[Sydney, NSW, August 2015]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 53 x 36 mm Colour: Light-brown, with sparse mid-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

The name of this species, "tenebrosa" (=timid), indicates that these waterhens are shy. This is why they have a preference for aquatic habitats with high reeds: They use those reeds for cover. However, in parks they can become used to the presence of humans.

Immature Dusky Moorhen demonstrating that they can walk on lilypads (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, December 2014]

Food, Diet

Dusky Moorhens feed on a variety of (mostly aquatic) plants and small animals.

Dusky Moorhen, back right, feeding on parts of underwater plants; in the foreground an Eurasian Coot (photo courtesy of J. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, June 2014]

Dusky Moorhen picking water bugs off the surface
[Near Dubbo, NSW, October 2016]

Example of the dangers of humans leaving behind rubbish in ponds in urban parks: Dusky Moorhen trying to swallow a piece of rubbish (photo courtesy of J. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, July 2014]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

duskhen_20151203_4.mp3 tenebrosa
(W NSW)
Contact calls © MD
duskhen_20151203_2.mp3 tenebrosa
(NW NSW)
Annoyed call(?) © MD
duskhen_20160701.mp3 tenebrosa
(NW NSW)
Squabbling © MD
duskhen_20151203.mp3 tenebrosa
(W NSW)
Chicks begging © MD
duskhen_20151203_3.mp3 tenebrosa
(W NSW)
? © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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