Mother Moorhen and her Brood.
Hello humans, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Moorhen, proud mother of four so far. A bearded photographer took interest in me some time back, thus this autobiography of sorts. I love company so this is more of a delight, for me to tell you my story. Now, I feel like I already know you and your human tendencies. I know that you build these large permanent homes while some sleep out in the cold. I know that you wear clothes and shoes unlike any other species I’ve seen. Lastly, I know that you find my distant cousin, the chicken, very delicious. It’s okay, hata sijaskia vibaya.
What is so different about me, you ask?
I am the Common Moorhen. A bird that makes it’s home along ponds, streams or in swamps and marshy areas. Available places to build my home however, are being threatened by the increasing human encroachment on our habitats. Sometimes, you humans come into the wetlands to hunt us for your dinner. Enjoying our succulent flesh over a fire, rotisserie-style, as you make merry with your family and loved ones. It’s what little Moorhen chicks’ nightmares are made of! It is not well known, but the Moorhen family is large and diverse, consisting of ten species. However, as more of us end up homeless or on your plate, some of my cousins have been driven into extinction. Gone forever. RIP to our fallen.
All is not doom and gloom though, cheer up! The Common Moorhen species from which I hail, are resilient and tough as nails. We still survive in the wild; all we ask for is co-existence with you humans.
When full-grown, we weigh about 7 to 14 ounces and achieve a height of between 12 and 15 inches. Our bossom, neck and head have a radiant bluish black plumage that glimmers on a clear sunny day. The back and wings are a dark brown while the derriere is mostly white in colour. On the sides, there are black stripes that suggest some character. One of the nicknames I’ve acquired is “swamp chicken”. This is possibly because I resemble the chicken in body shape as well as size. I am, however, an omnivore. Indulging in fruits, berries, insects, seeds, small fish and even snails.
As I’m sure you can already tell, I am a very social creature. I literally avoid living in solitude by surrounding myself with 15 to 30 birds of my kind when it’s not mating season. At the moment, I have been blessed with four beautiful daughters and I intend on having many more. I could not help cackling with laughter when I found out that you humans actually plan to have few children in your families. Ha! Four kids for me is just getting started. In fact, having many children has its advantages. The male with the largest number of offspring becomes the dominant male and the leader, as per our law which is very clear, lol. This organization and mutual understanding allows us to live peacefully in our little community.
Despite our peaceful way of life, we are constantly plagued with natural enemies. Wild cats, foxes, large dogs and all manner of reptiles, seem to simply hate us. Even when all we do is mind our own business and take care of our little ones, we remain a target. At this point, we are ready to try anything to make the conflict end. Including having a diplomatic sit-down with these predators to discuss how we can coexist peacefully.
We may be birds, but we are semi-flightless. I tried to teach my babies how to fly for so long that I eventually gave up. Nevertheless, we are still able to cover up to 1,200 miles when migrating from our breeding grounds to the places where we wait out the cold, harsh winter. This migration is usually done at night. Now before you start accusing us of having the habits of vampires and witches, we only travel at night because that’s when our enemies are fast asleep. It does of course help that we have excellent night vision.
Mating season is usually from April to August. It is an important season for us in which we interrupt our day-to-day lives to bring more of us to the world. This time is crucial to our survival so the aggressive males ensure that their mates have two or three chicks every mating season. We have heard of your latest creation, ‘Samantha’. Do you think she measures up?
The building of a home is the combined effort of both the male and female. Depending on our preferences, the nest is built on the ground or on the surface of the water. Parents take turns to scavenge for food for the young chicks up until the little ones can fend for themselves at three weeks old. Moorhens take pride in being excellent swimmers. A skill that is later lost at the age of three years which is our average lifespan.
In case you were wondering, a Moorhen reaches sexual maturity at the ripe age of one year. This is when we begin to plan for our big families.
I feel like we know each other quite well now. I know that you drain ponds and swamps and spill oil on the wetlands to try to get rid of those pesky mosquitoes, but do you know that you are destroying our homes in the process? Did you know that we also do not belong on your plates as a delicacy? Now that you know me, preserve me beyond these beautiful pictures and don’t let me go extinct. Our entire species thanks you.