The White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) is a waterbird in the rail and crake family Rallidae.
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 croaky ruak ruak call. Calls (help·info)
Singapore, Oct 1994