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Gallinula angulata (Lesser moorhen)

Kleinwaterhoender [Afrikaans]; Edenene (generic term for gallinules and moorhens) [Kwangali]; Nhapata (generic name for coot, gallinule, moorhen, crake or rail) [Shona]; Kukumezani (generic name for moorhen or coot) [Tsonga]; Afrikaans waterhoen [Dutch]; Gallinule africaine [French]; Zwergteichhuhn [German]; Galinha-d'įgua-pequena [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Gruiformes > Family: Rallidae

Gallinula angulata (Lesser moorhen)   

Lesser moorhen. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is locally common in northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers freshwater wetlands such as swamps, marshes, ponds, sewage ponds and seasonally inundated grassland and flood plains.

Distribution of Lesser moorhen in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Intra-African breeding migrant, breeding in southern Africa and adjacent countries in the period from November-May, mainly December-April.


Mainly eats insects, seeds and flowers of reeds and molluscs, doing most of its foraging along the water's edge, plucking prey from the mud and vegetation.


  • Monogamous territorial solitary nester, arriving at its breeding grounds soon after floods.
  • The nest (see image below) is a shallow grass cup on a a platform of bent live grass or sedge stems, flimsy at first but becoming progressively stronger as more material is added.
Gallinula angulata (Lesser moorhen)  

Lesser moorhen at its nest, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from November-March, peaking from January-February.
  • It lays 4-9 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for about 19-20 days.
  • The chicks take their first flight at about 35-38 days old, becoming fully independent roughly 5-6 weeks later.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.