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White-Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) 

(Pennant, 1769) 

Figure 1: An adult White-Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus). (Photo courtesy of Kieron Gabriel Ng)

Table of Contents


The White-Breasted Water held is a bold bird that can be often seen foraging openly in a wide range of habitats such as wetlands, mangroves and even in urban areas such as roadsides.(1) It has a loud, distinctive call that can often be heard in the evenings.(2) This bird is considered as both a common resident and a migrant in Singapore and is also found in many different countries.(1)  According to IUCN Red List, this species is catagorized as Least Concern (LC).(3)


The generic epithet Amaurornis is derived from the Greek words amauros, meaning dusky or brown, and ornis meaning bird, while the specific epithet phoenicurus is in reference to its red tail.(4) 


From Gopakumar and Kaimal (2008), unless otherwise stated.


Figure 2: An adult White-Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus). (Photo courtesy of Kieron Gabriel Ng)

The adult White-Breasted Waterhen can be identified by its grey feathers all over its body except for the face, throat and abdomen which are white. They also have yellow legs and a light green bill.(5)





Taxonomy and Systematics


1. Singapore Birds Project, n.d. White-breasted Waterhen. Available at: Accessed on 11 November 2018

2. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, 2018. Amaurornis phoenicurus (Pennant, 1769). Available at: Accessed on 11 November 2018.

3. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (2018). White-breasted Waterhen. Available at: Accessed 11 November 2018.

4.  Jobling, J. (2010). Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: A & C Black, p.43.

5. Gopakumar, P. S. and Kaimal, P. P. (2008). Loss of Wetland breeding habitats and population decline of White-breasted Waterhen, Amaurornis Phoenicurus Phoenicurus (Pennent)-A Case Study. Proceedings of Taal 2007: The 12th World Lake Conference, pp.529-536.

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