Pictures of Birds: Watching Moorhens Grow
Bird pictures: Moorhen and chicks
Watching moorhens grow
This photo journal follows the first few weeks of life of a nest of moorhen chicks. The unique photographs by wildlife photographer AnnMackiMiller provide a delightful study of these cute birds. Included is information on moorhens that you will enjoy learning.
Moorhens are water birds and they belong to the rail family of birds. Characteristically they have long yellow legs and huge feet which helps them cross reed beds and boggy ground and makes them expert climbers. The young start off with black legs and feet but they seem to have an instant affinity for climbing.
The first day after hatching, two of these little ones kept falling out of the nest. What may have been a problem for other baby birds was no problem for them. They took to the water immediately and clambered back up to the nest quite happily.
Bird pictures: Moorhens and chicks
Moorhen Chick Pictures: Week One
The first indication that the eggs had hatched in this nest was when the second adult started bringing food to the nest. Sure enough, tiny little beaks could be seen.
Moorhen chicks first appear as little black balls of fluff on legs. They have a tiny red beak with a yellow tip and a bald area on the top of their heads. At times they also seem to have a to have a fuzzyy beard. The body is black, as are the legs and feet. They are around the size of an apple.
Moorhen chick picture: Two days old
Bird pictures: Moorhens and chicks
A moorhen chick's first week in pictures
The moorhen chick will stay in the nest for the first 24 hours only. After that it is common to see them onland with one or other of the adults. Both adults care for the chicks, often dividing the number between them. In this instance, one adult took some off to feed onland and the other stayed with the nest. After a while they would swap over. The first few days this also indicated that one or more egg was still to hatch and indeed one tiny head appeared a day after the first chicks had left the nest.
There were eight moorhen chicks in this brood. By day 3 each adult was caring for several each but they seemed to swap over from time to time. In the wildlife photos here, one adult took some of the young back to the nest while the other brooded them on a make-shift nest onshore. Moorhens have few bird calls but those they do have appear to have distinct purposes. They can give a loud chack to the other adult, perhaps when approaching the nest for the 'shift change' and also when they spot food they want to share. In the breeding season the female sounds a lower note to the male when ready to mate. For the chicks, particularly if the adult want them to come to them or to follow them, they have low click, click, click sound.
Even after only three days, the chicks are beginning to feed themselves but still rely mainly on the adults for food.
Bird pictures: 3-day old moorhen chicks
Bird pictures: 4-day old mmorhen chicks
Bird picture: 8-day old moorhen chick
Two week old moorhen chicks
By week two the chicks are grazing freely on the pasture grass near the nest. They have grown considerably, with long legs and huge feet more evident that ever. By now they seem to be growing - feet and legs first like most youngsters. They are now about the size of a grapefruit.
Bird Pictures: moorhens and chicks
Bird Pictures: 10-day old moorhen chicks
Bird Pictures: 11-day old moorhen chicks
A moorhen chick's third week of life
By the time the chicks are 3 weeks old they are grazing for themselves although they are still fed by the adults too. They are still now completely waterproof and rely on the adult to shelter them from rain and also they still go to an adult to brood overnight.