Dusky Moorhen

Did you know?

The Dusky Moorhen does not dive when feeding; its tail is always visible above the water when upended.

Sharp guttural crowing or harsh shrieks.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
August to March
Clutch Size: 
5 to 18, usually from more than one female.
24 days
Nestling Period: 
28 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Dusky Moorhen is a medium-sized, dark grey-black water bird with a white undertail. It has a red bill with a yellow tip and a red facial shield. Young birds are much duller and browner than adults, with a greenish bill and face shield.

Similar species: 

Two other water hen species are similar to the Dusky Moorhen but can be easily distinguished. The similarly-sized Eurasian CootFulica atra, has a white bill and face shield and a red eye. The Purple SwamphenPorphyrio porphyrio, is much larger and has a distinct purple-blue colouring.

Where does it live?

The Dusky Moorhen is found from Indonesia through New Guinea to Australia. It is widespread in eastern and south-western Australia, ranging from Cooktown to eastern South Australia and in the southern corner of Western Australia.


The Dusky Moorhen is found in wetlands, including swamps, rivers, and artificial waterways. It prefers open water and water margins with reeds, rushes and waterlilies, but may be found on grasses close to water such as parks, pastures and lawns.

What does it do?

The Dusky Moorhen feeds in the water and on land on algae, water plants and grasses, as well as seeds, fruits, molluscs and other invertebrates. It will also eat carrion (dead animals) and the droppings of other birds. It does not dive when feeding; its tail is always visible above the water when upended.


During breeding season, the Dusky Moorhen forms breeding groups of two to seven birds, with all members defending territory, building nests and looking after young. The shallow platform nests are made of reeds and other water plants over water, among reeds or on floating platforms in open water. Two or more females will lay their eggs in the same nest and all members of the group help to incubate the eggs and feed the young.

Living with us

The Dusky Moorhen has been favoured by artificial water sources such as dams, ponds and lakes in parks and gardens and associated grassy areas. However, wetland drainage in other areas may have negative impacts.

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