Plants and Animals
Gallinula galeata Common gallinule
Common moorhens are duck-like birds with dark bodies, a white undertail, and white flank stripes. Perhaps the most conspicuous characteristic is the red-orange bill and forehead shield with a yellow tip.
Status and Rank
US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: T - Threatened (legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S3 - Vulnerable
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Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.
Common moorhens use a variety of emergent marsh types but also lakes and ponds with emergent and grassy vegetation along the border.
Natural Community Types
For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.
Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.
Wetland management should focus on providing a diverse mosaic of emergent marsh known as a hemi-marsh. The hemi-marsh condition is considered a 50:50 mix of emergent vegetation and open water that are well interspersed. Moorhens nest in dense emergent vegetation over water 1 to 4 feet deep. In impoundments used by Common Moorhens and other marsh nesting birds, care should be taken to avoid dramatic increases or decrease in water level during the nesting season that may flood nests or ease access by predators, respectively. If multiple impoundments are available in a small area the water levels in them can be managed in a rotation so that in any given year at least some suitable habitat will be available while some areas are allowed to drain before reflooding.
Migration from third week of March to fourth week of April
Nesting from first week of May to third week of July
Migration from first week of September to third week of November
Moorhens may be surveyed by scanning the edges of open water areas in marshes from a boat or canoe or from adjacent uplands like dikes. Call playback may also be used to enhance the detection rate for birds that may be in the vegetation out of plain sight.
Visual scans, call playback
Survey Period: From first week of May to second week of July
Time of Day: Daytime
- Bibby, C.J., N.D. Burgess, and D.A. Hill. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, New York.
- Brewer, R., G. A. McPeek, and R. J. Adams Jr., eds. 1991. The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Michigan. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. 650pp.
- Sibley, D.A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. Knopf, Toronto. 544pp.