White-breasted Waterhen


White-breasted Waterhen

Scientific Name:  Amaurornis phoenicurus

White-breasted Waterhen image

White-breasted Waterhen  Photo by:  --

Bird Type:  Duck-like Birds    526  Views


White-breasted Waterhen has dark slate-brown upperparts. Face and underparts are white. Flanks, vent and undertail feathers are rufous-chestnut. Bill is yellowish-green. In breeding plumage, we can see the red base on the upper mandible. Eyes are deep red. Legs and large feet are yellowish. Both sexes are similar.
Juvenile is duller than adults, with brown upperparts, and dark grey face and underparts. Bill is grey.


  • 32-32 cm

  • 13-13 Inch

  • black

  • white  (Bird may have more colors)
  •    ডাউক
  •    ডাহুক
  •    ડવક, સફેદ ચતરી
  •    जलमुर्गी, डौक
  •    ಹುಂಡುಕೋಳಿ
  •    കുളക്കോഴി
  •    पाणकोंबडी, लाजरी पाणकोंबडी, कुवा कोंबडी, कोकारी, टरका
  •    सिमकुखुरा
  •    श्वेतकंठ जलकुक्कुटी
  •    சம்புக்கோழி

White-breasted Waterhen lives near freshwater marshes and in habitats with dense undergrowth. It is very common in mangroves, reedbeds, grasslands, ricefields, orchards, parks and gardens. It is also found near small streams and pools where there is dense vegetation.


The white-breasted waterhen feeds primarily on invertebrates, aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, worms, small frogs and mollusks. It also feeds on seeds, grass, shoots and berries.


White-breasted Waterhen is very vocal in breeding season, and at dawn and dusk. It may also be vocal at night. It gives some grunts, soft hisses and other strange sounds, followed by a repeated raucous call krr-kwak-kwaak. It also utters a soft, hollow kook, repeated monotonously. Alarm call is a high-pitched hik.


The white-breasted waterhen are small birds measuring 25 to 35 cm. The male birds are larger and weigh between 200 to 330 grams whereas the females weigh between 160 to 230 grams. They have dark grey upper parts and flanks with a clean whitish face, breast and belly. Immature birds have only traces of whiteness on the front. Young chicks are black. The lower belly and undertail is cinnamon colored. Their flattened body facilitates their movement through reeds. The waterhen call is a repetitive croaking sound.

White-breasted Waterhen may be seen in open area in the morning, when it feeds. It picks up while walking, with tail held upright, and flicking it. It forages on the ground, feeding on worms and snails. It also eats roots and shoots of aquatic plants, and probes in mud or shallow water with its bill.

It is also seen foraging above the ground, in bushes and small trees. It is clumsy among branches, due to its enormous feet with long toes.
However, its slender body allows it to slip through the dense vegetation.

White-breasted Waterhen can step on large lotus leaves, and sometimes it has to swim, but it is not a very good swimmer.

It can be seen foraging singly or in pairs, and it is active by day. It roosts at night in vegetation, in bushes or trees. If alarmed, it will fly or run into dense vegetation, dashing in with head down.

White-breasted Waterhen northern birds may migrate southwards, forming mixed flocks with local residents. Northern birds seem to be larger than others.
White-breasted Waterhen is monogamous.


    Resident (inc. local and altitudinal migrants)
    Former range (no recent records but may still survive)
    Summer visitor (including summer monsoon)
    Winter visitor
    Passage (autumn and/or spring) visitor
    known to be occasional, scarce or erratic
    Small isolated population (actual range smaller)  
    Isolated record(s) - one or more in the same area  
 colour coded for seasonality as per coloured ranges, black denotes unspecified season