species bird white prof genus
MOOR-HEN,1 the name by which a bird, often called Water-hen and sometimes Gallinule, is most commonly known in England. An earlier name was Moat-lien, which was appropriate in the days when a moat was the ordinary adjunct of most considerable houses in the country. It is the Gallinula chloropus of ornithologists, and almost too well known to need description. About the size of a small Bantam-hen, but with the body much compressed (as is usual with members of the Family Rallidx, to which it belongs), its plumage above is of a deep olive-brown, so dark as to appear black at a short distance, and beneath iron-grey, relieved by some white stripes on the flanks, with the lower tail-coverts of pure white,--these last being very conspicuous as.the bird swims. A scarlet frontlet, especially bright in the spring of the year, and a red garter on the tibia of the male render him very showy. Though often frequenting the neighbourhood of man, the Moorhen seems unable to overcome the inherent stealthy habits of the Rallidx, and hastens to hide itself on the least alarm ; but under exceptional circumstances it may be induced to feed, yet always suspiciously, with tame ducks and poultry. It appears to take wing with difficulty, and may be often caught by an active dog ; but, in reality, it is capable of sustained flight, its longer excursions being chiefly performed by night, when the peculiar call-note it utters is frequently heard as the bird, itself invisible in the darkness, passes overhead. The nest is a mass of flags, reeds, or other aquatic plants, often arranged with much neatness, almost always near the water's edge, where a clump of rushes is generally chosen ; but should a mill-dam, sluice-gate, or boat-house afford a favourable site, advantage will be taken of it, and not unfrequently the bough of a tree at some height from the ground will furnish the place for a cradle. The eggs, from seven to eleven in number, resemble those of the COOT (vol. vi. p. 341), but are smaller, lighter, and brighter in colour, with spots or blotches of reddish-brown. In winter, when the inland waters are frozen, the majority of Moor-hens betake themselves to the tidal rivers, and many must leave the country entirely, though a few seem always able to maintain their existence however hard be the frost. The common Moor-hen is extensively spread throughout the Old World, being found also at the Cape of Good Hope, in India, and in Japan. In America it is represented by a very closely-allied form, G. gadeata, so called from its rather larger frontal helm, and in Australia by another, G. tenebrosa, which generally wants the white flank-markings. Both closely resemble C. chloropus in general habits, as does also the G. pyrrhorrhoa of Madagascar, which has the lower tail-coverts buff instead of white. Celebes and Amitoyna possess a smaller cognate species, G. hxmatopus, with red legs ; tropical Africa has the smallest of all, G. angulata ; and some more that have been recognized as distinct are also found in other more or less isolated localities. One of the most remarkable of these is the C. ?lesions of Tristan da Cunha,2 which has wholly lost the power of flight concomitantly with the shortening of its wings and a considerable modification of its external apparatus, as well as a strengthening of its pelvic girdle and legs.3 A more extreme development in this direction appears to be exhibited by the singular Habroptila wallacii of Jilolo,4 and to sonic extent by the Pareudiastes pacificus of Samoa,'' but at present little is known of either. Of other forms, such as the common Gallinula (Erythra) planticura, and Gallirex cristata of India, as well as the South-American species classed in the genus Porphyriops, there is not room to speak ; but mention should be made of the remarkable Australian genus Tribovyr, containing three species,6 which seem to be more terrestrial than aquatic in their haunts and habits.
Allied to all these is the genus Porphyrio, including the bird so named by classical writers, and perhaps a dozen other species often called Sultanas and Purple Water-hens, for they all have a plumage of deep blue, - some becoming violet, green, or black in parts, but preserving the white lower tail-coverts, so generally characteristic of the group; and their beauty is enhanced by their scarlet bill and legs. Two, P. allcni of the Ethiopian Legion and the South-American P. pcsrva, are of small size. Of the larger species, P. caruleus is the " Porpbyrio " of the anients, and inhabits certain localities on both sides of the Mediterranean, while the rest are widely dispersed within the tropics, and even beyond them, as in Australia and New Zealand. But this last country has produced a more exaggerated form, Notorni.s, which has an interestinc, and perhaps unique history. First described from a 'ossir skull by Prof. Owen,' and then thought to be extinct, an example was soon after taken alive,2 the skin of which (with that of another procured like the first by Mr Walter Mantel!) may be seen in the British Museum. Other fossil remains were from time to time noted by Prof. Owen 3; but it began to be feared that the bird had ceased to exist,4 until a third example was taken about the year 1879, the skin and most of the bones of which, after undergoing examination in New Zealand by Dr Buller and Prof. T. J. Parker,5 found their way to the museum of Dresden, where Dr A. B. Meyer discovered the recent remains to be specifically distinct from the fossil, and while keeping for the latter the name .A". ',nankin gives the former that of K. hochstetteri. What seems to have been a third species of Xotoritis formerly inhabited Lord Howe's Island, but is now extinct (see Bums, vol. iii. p. 732, note). Whether the genus .Aptornis, of which Prof. Owen has described the remains from New Zealand, was most nearly allied to Totornis and Poiphyrio cannot here be decided. Prof. '1'. J. Parker (loc, cit.) considers it a "development by degeneration of an ocydromine type" (see OCYDROME). (A. N.)