Madagascar Bird of the Day: Common Moorhen

common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) hiding behind reeds

Is is a chicken or a duck?

Neither! It’s a moorhen.

Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) can be found throughout much of Africa, Europe and Asia, including Madagascar, where they prefer freshwater marshes. They don’t only look like a half-step between a chicken and a duck, they act a bit like it, too—walking like the former and swimming like the latter.

These ones were hanging around the pond behind our hotel in Antananarivo. But it did not act like the urban waterfowl I’m used to—mallards and Canada geese who live near me almost year-round, and barely blink when a human comes near. Whether swimming or strolling, these guys darted away (usually via a quick flight of several yards) as soon as a human came near. Companion pointed out that this was probably because, unlike the waterfowl in my city, these ones actually get hunted.

Here’s another picture of a moorhen if you want to get a better idea of its looks:

common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) walking on land




2 thoughts on “Madagascar Bird of the Day: Common Moorhen”

    • They’re smaller than a mallard, but I think bigger than the crows we have around here. Hmmmm … I need to go look for some crows.

      Wikipedia says the common moorhen is 12-15 inches beak to tail and 7–18 ounces, and Cornell Bird Lab says American crows are about 20 inches long. But a lot of a crow’s length is in its tail. They weigh 10 to 20 ounces.

      So it depends which moorhen you’re comparing to which crow.


Leave a Comment