Moorhen News

Good news on the Dusky Moorhens, all three survivors are thriving. The smaller chick with a nasty bite to the leg has healed perfectly. The larger chick is almost fully fledged and has developed the customary white tail feathers.

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It has been a long eventful journey for them all, since the day one adult first appeared on our dam at the beginning of December 2011. Three weeks later a mate had joined the first bird, and signs were positive.

At the end of January six tiny chicks had hatched and were brought onto the dam for the first time. We were so disappointed when the chicks began to vanish, and we suspected the eels were feeding on them. However last week we heard a loud alarm cry from the remaining adult and the two juveniles swam to the lotus leaves, and instantly dived under as a Brown Goshawk swooped in for the kill. It was high drama, and the Moorhens remained on alert for about ten minutes until they felt the Goshawk had left. We have also seen the adult birds attacking the water after a big swirl from a resident eel, and the adults also chase any hapless black snake that ventures to close.

When the chicks were three weeks old the second adult disappeared. We were all hoping she had gone off to sit on a nest and raise more young, but that has not been the case, or she would have been back by now. Of course there have been floods and strong rain, so nesting may have not been successful, and the bird may have been taken by predators.

Now the remaining three birds no doubt form the beginning a new flock, certainly there are two more now than when that first pioneer arrived in December!

You can find all the Moorhen posts by clicking on Dusky Moorhen in the tag cloud on the right.

21 thoughts on “Moorhen News

  1. Thanks for the update. Glad all is well and the babies continue to grow. The slide show holds beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing with us.


  2. thanks for review of saga! Good to know that in spite of all, the law of survival in nature is winning out. Beautiful photos!

  3. Just look at them! beautiful sparky birds with so much to cope with – goshawks and snakes it’s amazing that they made it. I hope they go on to become a big flock on your dam, they have chosen a very special place.

  4. I was so glad to find your blog! I have a pair of Mhens that live in a tree in my backyard (on the lake). They have raised many babies over the last 5 years, and lost many along the way. It has been hard to find any information about Moorhens that is meaningful to someone who watches their everyday behavior – all the info I find is basic-habitat, what they eat, etc. My main Mhen Pokey, is raising 3 babies right now (from an original 8) – momma Pokey disappeared last week with 3 of the 8 and then a few days later, a storm wiped out their “barge” nest (one of three in the tree), there was only Pokey and the 3 oldest left. Basically, I am worried about the Mrs.! My husband has reminded me that she has done this before, about a week after all babies hatched, she disappeared for weeks and then turned up fine and they started prepping for more eggs. But she doesn’t do it everytime they have babies (at least 3 times a year) so I’m wondering if Mr. Pokey will find another mate and continue to live in my tree or if raising these 3 babies will be the end of our life together :-). From research, it seems they are either a monogymous pair or they live in big groups. Mine has been a pair for years, who chases off their young as soon as their front shield turns red and then they live alone until the next brood of kids comes along.

    I was happy to learn your moorhen found a new mate and stuck around his home, hopefully mine will too (if the Mrs. doesn’t return.) Perhaps she is just fine somewhere and they split up because there were so many babies?

    Mr. Pokey rules my lakeside and is very fierce with certain animals and birds (Ibis, Mallards, gooses, turtles) but very friendly to others (like me and my husband, some muscovy ducks and some iguanas), when there’s eggs and nest building going on, he swims the perimiter of the tree and chases off any mallards or other “unwanted” animals but allows the others to come through and right into my yard. He’ll face off with any animal and although a bit ungraceful, he typically wins any faceoff and doesn’t get injured or attacked. Having seen it many times, I think he could have protected the mrs. in most cases and she was very skittish and ran from anything and everything so I am hoping she is fine but since nobody seems to write about the behavior of moorhens when raising their babies, I am not sure if it is normal for then to leave and come back or if it was a onetime thing last year and this time, she was snatched by a predator.

    Can’t wait to go back and read your blogs now that I have found this site – perhaps it will help me understand my own Moorhen family’s behavior!

    • Wow, how wonderful to connect with you, we can help each other with Moorhens … where are you? I am on NSW south coast with a big dam (2) beside the house. Our mister does not have a tree, and I dont know where the nest was, but obviously not far away. Wonder what will happen now, he will be hoping one young turns out to be female I guess (or the other way around) I cant tell which of the adults is which so dont know which one disappeared.

      We will keep in touch! Christine

  5. We’re in Florida and his tree is a bottlebrush tree – the lake is more like a “finger” lake, several of which lead to a bigger lake at the end, so I can sometimes see when they build hideaways across the lake in the opposite shore. I only think it was the mrs. who went missing because the one who isn’t scared of me is the one who collects all the reeds for the nest while the other one sits on the nest – so I always assumed the reed collector was the male. BUT – they both look alike and only if I get both adults in the same picture can I figure out which is which based on size and shape (he is bigger and rounder).

    This was the first year I actually saw the nest – they are always totally hidden but I almost fell in the water trying to stretch my camera all over every direction to take a bunch of pictures and finally got a pic with the nest in it and found there were two small nests, a “ladder” of about a foot or so and then a huge barge like nest on the farthest side of the tree which fit all 8 babies and both adults at the same time.
    Today we spent the day outside with them and it was still the Mr. and 3 babies and they were very active. Still no sign of mom coming back but I’ll keep hoping.

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