An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. Dusky_moorhen_by_paul_thiompson__zapgaspix Dusky Moorhen by P. Thompson
  2. Dusky_moorhen_by_greg_miles Dusky Moorhen (size: 35 - 40 cm) by G. Miles
  3. Dusky_moorhen_and_chicks_by_marj_k Dusky Moorhen and chicks by Marj K.

Dusky Moorhen

Gallinula tenebrosa


Colour: Dark grey to black with a yellow-tipped red bill, red frontal shield, red legs, white undertails. Hatchling also black with red frontal shield, juvenile has green legs, green horn or black coloured bill, generally paler. 

Size: 35-40cm



  • Call: Shrill ‘”cheeah”, nasal “tuk, tuk”, low honking. 
  • Diet: Feeds in water and on land, algae, water grasses, seeds, fruits, molluscs and other invertebrates. Will upend in water when feeding but does not dive. 
  • Breeding: Builds nest amongst reeds or on floating platforms in open water.

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating
  • Calling
  • Feeding
  • Chicks
  • Bird on eggs
  • Bird on nest
  • Nest building

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect birds to alter their timing of breeding as a result of climate change warming the Earth and associated changes in the hydrological system.

When To Look

  • Year round
  • August - March (breeding)

Where To Look

Eastern and Southwestern Australia

Dusky Moorhen compiled distribution map - BirdLife International

Dusky Moorhen compiled distribution map - BirdLife International

Where To Look

Maps of Habitat Suitability


Current probability
of occurrence
2070 probability
of occurrence (RCP 8.5)
Species range change from
current to 2070 probability

Above, the left and middle maps show the modelled habitat suitability for the the species under current and potential future climate conditions. The colours indicate the predicted habitat suitability from low (white) to high (dark red).

The future habitat suitability is modelled for the year 2070 under a climate change scenario that represents 'business as usual' (RCP 8.5). The map on the right shows how the range of the species might change between now and 2070, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, green areas where the species range might expand, and blue areas where the habitat is predicted to be suitable for the species now and in the future.

The models for this species were run in the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory. Please note that while models can be very informative, they are only a representation of the real world and thus should always be viewed with caution. You can read more about the science behind these models here.



Simpson K, Day N & Trusler P 2004. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Viking, Camberwell, Victoria.


  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) is larger with a bright purple front and all red bill and shield. 

    Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) is recognised by its snowy white bill and forehead shield.

    Black-tailed Native-hen (Tribonyx ventralis) is a large, stout, dark, fleet-footed rail with an erect narrow black tail which is held folded. The bird is mainly brownish-grey, with white spots on the flanks. The bill and frontal shield is green, with an orange-red lower mandible ('jaw'). Legs and feet are bright pink. The eye is bright yellow. They are seen in pairs, parties and sometimes large groups.

    Tasmanian Native Hen (Tribonyx mortierii)is a large, heavy bodied, flightless bird found only in Tasmania. It is similar in shape to the Black-tailed Native-hen Tribonyx ventralia but is larger. The Tasmanian Native-hen has a large yellow bill, a red eye, brown head, back and wings and is slate grey on its underparts. The contrasting black tail is long and narrow and is flattened along the mid-line of the bird . The legs are powerful and grey in colour. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but duller.

    Bush-hen (Amaurornis moluccana) belongs to the same family as crakes and rails. It has brown back and wings and grey throat and chest with rusty tan coloured rear and under the tail. The bill and legs are greenish. It is not often seen as it spends most of the time in dense vegetation near water. It is a good swimmer and also wades in shallow water. 

    Spotless Crake (Porzana tabuensis) is a cryptic water bird found in the Philippines, SW Polynesia, Australia, and New Zealand.

  1. Did You Know?

    The Dusky Moorhen will eat the droppings of other birds.