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An inbuilt surrender flag

The Dusky moorhen, Gallinula tenebrosa, is one of the more common water birds seen around suburban lakes and wetlands across much of Australia. It is usually quite wary and if disturbed is quick to retreat either by swimming or running, both of which it does extremely well.

 

Adult roosting with young

Adult roosting with young, image Discovery Planet

During breeding a pair will establish and defend its own territory. Rival males will assess each other’s strength by the size and brilliance of the red head shields above their beaks. Lifting their tails to display the white patches to each other acts a little like a white surrender flag as it indicates to potential combatants that there will be no contest.

 

Dusky moorhen

Dusky moorhen, Gallinula tenebrosa, image Discovery Planet

On the other hand, if a younger male gets a bit too confident a stronger male may initiate a physical attack that will continue until one bird surrenders.

 


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