Thursday, April 10, 2008

White-breasted Waterhen

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) is a waterbird.Their breeding habitat is marshes across south Asia from India and Sri Lanka to south China and Indonesia. They nest in a dry location on the ground in marsh vegetation, laying 6-7 eggs. These large 32 cm long rails are permanent residents throughout their range.Adult White-breasted Waterhens have mainly dark grey upperparts and flanks, and a white face, neck and breast. The belly and undertail are cinnamon coloured. The body is flattened laterally to allow easier passage through the reeds or undergrowth. They have long toes, a short tail and a yellow bill and legs.Sexes are similar, but immature birds are much duller versions of the adults. The downy chicks are black, as with all rails.These birds probe with their bill in mud or shallow water, also picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects, small fish and seeds. They forage on the ground or in low bushes and small trees.Many rails are very secretive, but White-breasted Waterhens are often seen out in the open. They are noisy birds, especially at dawn and dusk, with a loud ruak ruak call.
Breeding: White-breasted Waterhens breed throughout the year. They nest amongst reeds, tall grass or dense undergrowth in both wet and dry habitats. Made about 1-2m above ground, the nest is a shallow cup-shaped pad of twigs, creeper stems or leaves. Or made out of bent over or interlaced tall grass stems topped with a thin lining of grass or weedy materials. Sometimes, it is roofed by surrounding plants.
4-9 eggs are laid. The eggs are dull brownish-white/grey with reddish brown spots and marks. Both parents incubate (20 days). The chicks are black and fluffy and leave the nest soon after hatching. Both parents care for them, and they may be seen running alongside the parents.White-breasted Waterhens prefer habitats with dense undergrowth near water both brackish and freshwater. They are quite common in mangroves, marshes, reedbeds to grasslands and cultivated areas (ricefields, orchards, gardens, parks). They often "commute" between suitable habitats by using man-made water channelsMigration: Some White-breasted Waterhens that breed in the north may migrate south and mix with local residents. Northern birds tend to be larger
Status and threats: White-breasted Waterhens have adapted well to human activity and are not endangered. However, they are sometimes still hunted as food, and occasionally get run over by cars.

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