Thursday, March 31, 2011

The White-breasted Water Hen

Around this time of the year we wake up to the loud and raucous calls of the White-breasted Water hen. When we first moved here, in the area we are living in, I remember being fascinated by these beautiful birds. A pair even nested on our bamboo grove years ago. Although they still nest in the vicinity, it's a comforting thought to know that they are still around. More land is being cleared and there's less open space now but the marshy land near our house is a good feeding ground. So are the small gardens in my neighbourhood.

The white-breasted water hen/Amauromis phoenicurus belongs to the Rail  family. As you can see from the picture above, they have a  white face, neck and breast. The upper part of the body and flanks are dark grey whereas the lower belly and undertail are the colour of rust.  I often see a pair in my yard feeding on the grain that I leave for the birds. Their diet also includes worms, small snails and fish. They like to forage in the mud in shallow water but roost on low bushes and trees.
According to Wiki, White-breasted water hens nest in a dry location on the ground in marsh vegetation laying 6-7 eggs. It takes about 19 days for the eggs to hatch. The bird is found throughout Asia near streams and lakes, near rice fields, and in marshy areas.


Randy Emmitt said...


Rails are not the normal yard bird in our part of the world. Very cool to have these visiting there!

Sylvia K said...

They are beautiful! I've never seen one either! Lovely captures as always! And, yes, wonderful to have them visiting there!


lotusleaf said...

Beautiful shots. I have seen this bird occasionally near the village pond.

Ginny said...

This is a new bird for me. I am a birdwatcher, so this is very interesting!! Almost looks like a cross between a hen and a duck.

ShySongbird said...

A most informative post and nice captures Kanak. I would never expect to see any member of the Rail family in my garden, you are lucky and I am envious :)

Nature Rambles said...

Thank you all so much for leaving your comments!:-))) These birds have become so much a part of my life. I wake up to their calls, see them foraging in my yard... their movements are furtive. Whereas the sparrows and the mynahs are so common that they do not evoke the same kind of emotions in me as this water hen. I'm so thankful for the raucousness and the furtiveness, the flashes of dark grey and white, and the fact that they still find it safe to live and breed in our vicinity.

Wendy said...

Oh, how nice that you have these water hens near you. I love waking up to the sound of bird song in the morning. And not just any bird.

Nice shots too. I've never seen a water hen. Thanks for sharing.