Dusky Moorhens are found throughout the eastern half of Australia and in the southern tip of Western Australia. They are predominantly a waterbird and are common where suitable habitat is found.
Their preferred habitats include wetlands, lakes, parks, farm dams, rivers and irrigation areas. They breed during the warmer months, roughly from August through to about March. The nest is an untidy platform of sticks, reeds, grass or bark and is often built in reeds in or near water. They can lay from 7 to 10 eggs.
At a distance they can easily be mistaken for Eurasian Coots, with which they often associate. The red bill and skin on the forehead distinguishes it from the Coots which have white bills and foreheads.
On the last day of our holidays in January we travelled from Gisborne just north of Melbourne to home in Murray Bridge. It was a long day of driving and I had few opportunities for birding along the way. we left our friends’ place a little later than I had hoped so we didn’t stop for morning tea. We pushed through to Ararat for lunch.
In Ararat we found a reasonable spot in the Alexandra Gardens. Here I was able to do a few minutes of birding during and after our picnic lunch. On the lake were the usual types of birds one expects in lakes in parks and gardens: Eurasian Coots, Dusky Moorhens, Pacific Black Ducks and Silver Gulls.
While we were eating a flock of about 40 Long-billed Corellas came noisily wheeling overhead and settled in the tree above us. In the distance I saw a smaller flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos winging their way slowly across town. A Laughing Kookaburra called somewhere near and Masked Lapwings could be heard calling on the adjacent sports grounds.
In the shrubbery near us several Common Blackbirds gave their warning call as I came down the path, New Holland Honeyeaters were busy feeding in the well maintained Australian native plant section of the gardens and several Striated Pardalotes called from the canopy of the trees overhead.