BIRDS OF CABO DE GATA-NIJAR. NATURAL PARK “COMMON MOORHEN”

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COMMON MOORHEN or Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) – (Common moorthen)

This bird is cosmopolitan, and inhabits every continent except Australia and Antarctica. In Western and Southern Europe it is sedentary or nomadic, the other populations fly towards the South or East to Hibernate.

Since mid-March, the moorhen returns to lakes, rivers and puddles invaded by the extensive vegetation and even to public gardens ponds.

Couples are formed once arrived to the nesting area and after having occupied a territory they begin the construction of the nest. Both adults are involved in this construction using materials as dry reeds leaves, rushes or reeds and they hide it skillfully between the riparian vegetation. The first laying takes place between April and May in which both parents incubated between 19 and 22 days, grayish yellowish eggs with reddish brown spots varying its number between 6 and 10 eggs. While the female incubates, the male constructs other nests where the young birds can rest safe from predators under his watchful eye.

Between June and July, the couple lay eggs for a second time and leave their territory from September. The moorhen feeds on aquatic invertebrates, small seeds and green parts of aquatic plants or adjacent vegetation, I have seen them by myself several times up to 500 meters out of ponds looking for food in the months of shortages or drought.

Adults are the size of a Partridge approximately, blackish, the legs are green, with a red band at the top of the bare area of the tibia-tarso while the young are dark greyish brown with a whitish belly.

The moorhen frequently shakes his head and dives sometimes, usually it flies low to ground or water level with the legs hanging in a burst of frenzy if it feels threatened. It is easily scared so at the most minimum signal it emits very acute and penetrating cries of warning for themselves and for other wetlands birds.