This nest at Highbury Park, King's Heath, is typical of Moorhens, which build a fairly shallow basket on the ground in dense vegetation - sometimes they will 'recycle' by using a nest built earlier by a previous Moorhen.

They tend to lay between five and eight eggs, and incubation lasts about three weeks. Initially, I thought there was just a single survivor of this clutch, but in fact there were three. They will fledge 40-50 days after hatching.

Both sexes make excellent parents, incubating and feeding the young. When threatened they make a very loud hissing sound to scare away predators.

The Moorhen is a distinctive species, easily identifiable thanks to its dark plummage, white undertail, yellow legs, and red facial shield, as well as the red ring around the eye.

Well, I say they are distinctive, but when I was younger I used to often muddle them with Coots: similar size, shape, and plummage, both water fowl... In the end I found a way of remembering which was which by telling myself a Moorhen has more to it; ie it has the distinctive red on its face. While a Coot has a white section instead. There are of course other differences but that was how I learned!

Another noticeable trait of the Moorhen is the way it constantly bobs its head whilst swimming or walking, and repeatedly bobs its tail.

To learn more about how I spotted this nest, visit Barbara's Wild Blog.

For more photographs go to the Gallery.


WILD CARD: When in danger from a predator, the young will sometimes cling to their parents so that they can be flown to safety.

Nesting Moorhen & chick, Go Be Wild, Barbara Copperthwaite
Moorhen with chicks, Go Be Wild, Barbara Copperthwaite
Moorhen chicks, Go Be Wild, Barbara Copperthwaite

At first the chicks look like little balls of black fluff stuck on top of gangly legs, right. At this stage their tell-tale red section is clear to see. As they grow older, their feathers become greyer and the red on their faces seems to fade briefly, below, before they reach maturity and it returns with a vengeance.

Juvenile Moorhen, Go Be Wild, Barbara Copperthwaite