Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Amaurornis phoenicurus (Pennant, 1769)

Species:A. phoenicurus
Common Names:White-breasted Waterhen
Status:Common resident


Found throughout coastal areas in Singapore and its offshore islands.

Locality Map

General Biology

The White-breasted Waterhen frequents damp swampy vegetation in rural areas, orchards, marshes, mangrove, grassland, gardens, parks, canals. It is not found in the interior of forest. Its loud, repetitive croaky call can usually be heard in the evening. It regularly keeps its feathers in top condition by preening and sunning.


Aquatic snails, molluscs, worms, insects and their larvae, spiders, small fish, grass seeds and water plants. It even eat bananas.

A pair passed a cockroach to and fro for some time before one ate it up, a strange feeding behaviour.

Life Cycle

The nest is built at the edge of a pond or ditch. The clutch of 4-9 eggs are incubated for 20 days by both parents; chicks leave the nest as soon as they are hatched; and both sexes care for them (Taylor, 1996). The chicks are initilly all black, to gradually develop patches of white on the underside. It takes about six months before it develops the adult colours. The appearance of the sub-adult can be viewed HERE.


Taylor, P. B. 1996. Family Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules and Coots). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 108–209.

Wang, L. K. 2011. Rails. Pp. 426–427. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors). Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore. 552 pp.

Wang, L.K. & Hails, C.J. 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1–179, Singapore.

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