These distinctive water birds are always a delight to see when I walk the along the canal towpath. Sometimes called ‘Marsh Hens’, these have distinctive bright red bills with a yellow tip, red eyes, and rich brown plumage. The bills of the juveniles tend to be duller than the adults, yet the chicks have the distinctive red bill.
They feed on seed, fruit, shoots, roots, snails and insects. The nest is a shallow bowl of leaves and stems built in reeds or trees. The female lays 5-11 eggs in 2 or 3 broods from April to August. They can live for up to 15 years.
Seen all year round, on ponds, canals, ditches, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. A common and widespread species, although scarce in northern Scotland.
Photographs taken June 2013, Stroudwater Canal, Stonehouse, Stroud, Gloucestershire, and July 2016, local canal, Staffordshire.