Pictures and some write-ups on the Waterhen birds  

 Pictures & notes of the Waterhen


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Crake Rail Moorhen Swamphen Watercock

From the family of Rallidae


The Waterhen habitats is one with dense undergrowth near water which could be brackish or freshwater. In weaving among the bushes, the bird  could flatten its body to pass through reeds and under growth. They roost in low tree and bushes at night. Both sexes are similar and jointly look after the incubation and bringing up the chicks when in downs are black colored

White-breasted Waterhens spends a lot of times foraging in the open.  when the bird is in a group, intermittently, the birds can be very noisy and this noisy session is also a ritual for the especially at dawn and dusk - it is a series with loud croaky calls for some minutes. This happen in mating season or after the first shower of the day. The bird in its normal behavior is a very calm creature going about its business of hunting for food silently and without attracting attention. Just with behavior just like our domestic chicken, that account for the name Waterhen being adopted. But when the bird is alarmed, it may fly or dart into dense undergrowth, in a posture of having the head down.


Waterhens are usually seen singly or in pairs. Their habit would be to forage slowly along the edge of a water way. Much bolder than most other Rails, it spends its time on the hard ground picking up edible items, could be along drains near busy road. Then going into and among low vegetation. The posture is one where the tail is held vertical and as they walk, the tail jerks. In other times, they  probe with their bill in mud or shallow water and bringing out worms and small snails. They also pick up shoots and roots of marsh plants by sight. The way they go about foraging on the ground is similar to pecking at tit bits in chicken-like movements,

Though the bird is largely crepuscular, they remain active in daylight hours. They eat insects, small fish, aquatic invertebrates and seeds.


White-breasted Waterhen  Amaurornis phoenicurus


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 34 Cm. Wherever there is a waterway, this ground bird would be seen. walking around the under growth. Sometimes coming out into the open to look for food. Could fly very well but hardly seen darting across the open from one hiding place to another. The bird has that distinctive rail species look with dark grey upperparts and flanks, combined with a conspicuous white under part. The face is also white, and the rear flanks and underside of the tail are reddish-brown. The beak is yellowish, with a reddish base and the long legs are yellowish, with large, rather ungainly-looking feet. The bird size ranging 28-36 cm long as it grows into adulthood.

 Distribution :-  Six sub-species are currently recognized, extending its range from Pakistan and India east to China, Taiwan and Japan, south through Myanmar and Thailand to West Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, Indonesia and the Philippines.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird that prefers bushy habitats beside a waterway. Could be found up the hills where there is water but rarely
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- I have seen this bird everywhere. In fact it is that common as where there are Mynas, there would be Waterhen.
Record of bird's call :-    and Video

White-breasted Waterhen # 1

White-breasted Waterhen   # 2

White-breasted Waterhen # 3

White-breasted Waterhen # 4

White-breasted Waterhen  # 5

White-breasted Waterhen  # 6

White-breasted Waterhen  # 7

White-breasted Waterhen # 8

White-breasted Waterhen   # 9

White-breasted Waterhen   # 10

White-breasted Waterhen  # 11

White-breasted Waterhen  # 12

White-breasted Waterhen  # 16

White-breasted Waterhen  # 17

White-breasted Waterhen   # 18

 My personal jottings on the White-breasted Waterhen :-

The bird of this size does not appear large as it has slim body shape and also its long legs. Most common would be around the areas with ponds and wetlands.

Though the name given to this bird is "Waterhen" It is seldom seen foraging on top of vegetation in the water. Those in the water are usually Moorhen [black] or Swamphen [Purple]. The Waterhen is seen most of the time on dry land while it roost in place next to water. Another scene with Waterhen would be the time, she leads her brood of fledglings in black down feathers across open places.

Nothing to shout about as the bird is accustomed in human presence, found even in backyard. Of course each and every time we went off road. if the area was wet and with stream nearby. They would be there. It so commonly seen that I need not elaborate. The birds spends most of its time gathered inside bushes, within their social gathering sometimes causing low commotions.



We all look at this bird in very different ways. It could be a very common bird that is seen regularly, with no unusual colors or unique features and nothing to shout about. We attach little value to birds which present itself in close proximity and frequently. In fact, it is interesting to observe its behavior and the way the bird goes about its business. It a bird and on the contrary one that we do not see as when we want to. So why not make notes of everything we could learn about the bird and over time, we would have a personal study.