Order: Gruiformes

Family: Rallidae

Scientific name: Amaurornis phoenicurus, Pennant, 1769

IUCN Red list status-Least Concern

Did you know?

  1. White breasted Water hens are able to walk over the floating leaves of aquatic plants.


White Breasted Water hen is 28-33 cms long and weighs 170-320 gms. They have dark slate brown upperparts with white face and under parts. Flanks, vent and under tail feathers are chestnut. Bill is greenish yellow. 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 look similar. Juveniles are duller than adults, with brown upperparts, dark grey face, under parts and grey bill.


White-breasted Water hen feeds mainly on insects, spiders, grain, fish, worms and snails, and some parts, shoots and roots, of marsh plants. It can be seen foraging singly or in pairs, and it is active by day. It picks up the prey while walking, with tail held upright, and flicks it. They are seen foraging both in water and ground, and also in bushes and small trees.


The main habitat of White-breasted Water hen is freshwater marshes and other habitats with dense vegetation. It is very common in mangroves, reed beds, grasslands, rice fields, orchards, parks, gardens small streams and pools. In India it is distributed throughout the union. They are also found in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Maldives and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Reproductive Behaviour

White-breasted Water hen breeds all year round, but mainly during rains. Its nest is a shallow cup made with twigs, stems or leaves. It may also build it with woven tall grass stems, with thin lining of grass or other plant material. Sometimes, we can see a kind of roof, made with surrounding plants. Nest is built among reeds, tussocks or dense vegetation, in wet or dry areas. It is at about one to two metres above the ground. It also may be situated on the ground, but near water. Normally 4 to 9 eggs are laid. Incubation lasts about 20 days and is shared by both adults. Young ones are cared by both parents.


Call is a repeated “kwaak-kwaak-kwaak” a soft “hoop-hoop” and high pitched “hik”.

Related Species and Sub Species

  • Amaurornis phoenicurus phoenicurus of Pakistan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
  • Amaurornis phoenicurus of Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Except Central Nicobar).
  • Amaurornis phoenicurus midnicobaria of Central Nicobar.
  • Brown Crake (Amaurornis akool).

Migratory Behaviour

Non Migratory, Common Resident