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The Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) or Waterhen is a member of the rail family Rallidae which is in the genus Gallinula. Its name derives from the old English name word 'moor' meaning 'marsh' as it doesn't occur on moorland. It is commonly encountered in marshlands, ponds, lakes, canals, estuaries as well as wet areas in reed beds. This species is a partial migrant and the northern populations move south for the winter. It occurs in most of Europe and in many parts of Asia and Africa. There are several sub species recognised. The former sub species found in the Americas, the Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata), is now treated as a full species.
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) world distribution map
Yellow: breeding summer visitor. Green: breeding resident. Blue: non-breeding winter visitor
Source: Map By Viktor Kravtchenko - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) world distribution map based on data from Handbook of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo et al), Birds of the Western Palearctic (Snow et al) and regional field guides. Updated with the split in 2011 by the American Ornithologists Union of Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata) which occurs in the Americas that was formally treated as a subspecies of Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)