Diet of the introduced Gough Moorhen Gallinula comeri on Tristan da Cunha




predation, scavenging, generalism, endemic species, island, South Atlantic Ocean


Gough Moorhens Gallinula comeri were introduced to Tristan da Cunha in the 1950s, and are now numerous in lowland habitat, filling the ecological niche of the extinct Tristan Moorhen G. nesiotis. On their native Gough Island, moorhens have a varied diet, ranging from vegetation and fruits to scavenging and even predatory behaviour. Here, we examined the stomach contents of four birds on Tristan da Cunha to provide insight into their diet. Moorhens mostly ate vegetation, but we also recorded spiders (Arthropoda: Aranea), earthworms (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae), remains of introduced rodents (Mus musculus), and anthropogenic debris. As on Gough Island, moorhens on Tristan have a generalist diet, and the impact of ecosystem restoration (and of the moorhens themselves) should be considered.


Download data is not yet available.


Angel A & Cooper BA. 2006. A review of the impacts of introduced rodents on the islands of Tristan da Cunha and Gough. RSPB Research Report No. 17. RSPB, Sandy, UK.

Bond AL, Carlson CJ & Burgio KR. 2019. Local extinctions of insular avifauna on the most remote inhabited island in the world. Journal of Ornithology 160: 49–60. DOI:

Broekhuysen GJ & Macnae W. 1949. Observations on the birds of Tristan da Cunha Islands and Gough Island in February and early March, 1948. Ardea 37: 97–113.

Caravaggi A, Cuthbert RJ, Ryan PG, Cooper J & Bond AL. 2019. The impacts of introduced House Mice on the breeding success of nesting seabirds on Gough Island. Ibis 161: 648–661. DOI:

Dagleish MP, Ryan PG, Girling S, Ghazali M & Bond AL. 2017. Clinical pathology of the Vulnerable Gough Moorhen (Gallinula comeri). Journal of Comparative Pathology 157: 246–255. DOI:

Dawson J, Oppel S, Cuthbert RJ, Holmes N, Bird JP, Butchart SHM, Spatz DR & Tershy B. 2015. Prioritizing islands for the eradication of invasive vertebrates in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories. Conservation Biology 29: 143–153. DOI:

Dilley BJ, Davies D, Glass T, Bond AL & Ryan PG. 2020. Severe impact of introduced scale insects on Island Trees threatens endemic finches at the Tristan da Cunha archipelago. Biological Conservation 251: 108761. DOI:

Downs CT, Bredin IP & Wragg PD. 2019. More than eating dirt: a review of avian geophagy. African Zoology 54: 1–19. DOI:

Eber G. 1961. Vergleichende untersuchungen am flugfähigen Teichhuhn Gallinula chl. chloropus und an der flugunfaähigen Inselralle Gallinula nesiotis. Bonner Zoologische Beitraege 12: 247–315.

Groenenberg DSJ, Beintema AJ, Dekker RWRJ & Gittenberger E. 2008. Ancient DNA elucidates the controversy about the flightless island hens (Gallinula sp.) of Tristan da Cunha. PLoS ONE 3: e1835. DOI:

Holdgate MW. 1965. The fauna of the Tristan da Cunha islands. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B Biological Sciences 249: 361–424. DOI:

Holmes ND, Spatz DR, Oppel S, Tershy B, Croll DA, Keitt B, Genovesi P, Burfield IJ, Will DJ, Bond AL, Wegmann A, Aguirre-Muñoz A, Raine AF, Knapp CR, Hung C-H, Wingate D, Hagen E, Méndez-Sánchez F, Rocamora G, Yuan H-W, Fric J, Millett J, Russell J, Liske-Clark J, Vidal E, Jourdan H, Campbell K, Springer K, Swinnerton K, Gibbons-Decherong L, Langrand O, Brooke MdL, McMinn M, Bunbury N, Oliveira N, Sposimo P, Geraldes P, McClelland P, Hodum P, Ryan PG, Borroto-Páez R, Pierce R, Griffiths R, Fisher RN, Wanless R, Pasachnik SA, Cranwell S, Micol T & Butchart SHM. 2019. Globally important islands where eradicating invasive mammals will benefit highly threatened vertebrates. PLoS ONE 14: e0212128. DOI:

Jones AG, Chown SL, Ryan PG, Gremmen NJM & Gaston KJ. 2003. A review of conservation threats on Gough Island: a cast stury for terrestrial conservation in the Southern Oceans. Biological Conservation 113: 75–87. DOI:

Knox AG & Walters M. 1994. Extinct and endangered birds in the collections of the Natural History Museum. British Ornithologists Club Occasional Publications 1. British Ornithologists Club, Tring, UK.

Parker GC, Rexer-Huber K, Parker KA, Ryan PG, Techow NMSM & Cuthbert RJ. 2012. Morphometric and genetic sexing in the Gough Moorhen Gallinula comeri. Ringing & Migration 27: 20–25. DOI:

Pugh PJA. 2004. Biogeography of spiders (Araneae: Arachnida) on the islands of the Southern Ocean. Journal of Natural History 38: 1461–1487. DOI:

Reynolds JW & Hänel C. 2005. The earthworms (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae) of Tristan da Cunha and Nightingale Islands, South Atlantic Ocean. Megadrilogica 10: 47–56.

Richardson ME. 1984. Aspects of the ornithology of the Tristan da Cunha group and Gough Island, 1972–1974. Cormorant 12: 123–201.

Ryan PG. 2007. Field guide to the animals and plants of Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island. Pisces Publications, Newbury, UK.

Ryan PG, Dilley BJ, Ronconi RA & Connan M. 2019. Rapid increase in Asian bottles in the South Atlantic Ocean indicates major debris inputs from ships. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116: 20892–20897. DOI:

Ryan PG, Dorse C & Hilton GM. 2006. The conservation status of the Spectacled Petrel Procellaria conspicillata. Biological Conservation 131: 575–583. DOI:

Sperling RM. 1872. Letter. Ibis III/2: 74–79.

Wace NM. 1967. Alien plants in the Tristan da Cunha islands. Pp 46–60 in Toward a new relationship of man and nature in temperate lands. Part III. Changes due to introduced species. IUCN Publications new series No. 9. IUCN, Morges, Switzerland.

Wace NM. 1969. The discovery, exploitation and settlement of the Tristan da Cunha Islands. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of Australia, South Australian Branch 70: 11–40.

Wace NM & Dickson JH. 1965. Part II. The terrestrial botany of the Tristan da Cunha Islands. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B Biological Sciences 49: 273–360. DOI:

Wace NM & Holdgate MW. 1958. The vegetation of Tristan da Cunha. Journal of Ecology 46: 593–620. DOI:

Wace NM & Holdgate MW. 1976. Man and nature in the Tristan da Cunha islands. IUCN Monograph 6. IUCN, Morges, Switzerland.

Wanless RM, Ryan PG, Altwegg R, Angel A, Cooper J, Cuthbert RJ & Hilton GM. 2009. From both sides: Dire demographic consequences of carnivorous mice and longlining for the Critically Endangered Tristan albatrosses on Gough Island. Biological Conservation 142: 1710–1718. DOI:

Wanless RM & Wilson JW. 2007. Predatory behaviour of the Gough Moorhen Gallinula comeri: conservation implications. Ardea 95: 311–315. DOI:

Watkins BP & Furness RW. 1986. Population status, breeding and conservation of the Gough Moorhen. Ostrich 57: 32–36. DOI:




How to Cite

Bond, A. L., & McClelland, G. (2021). Diet of the introduced Gough Moorhen Gallinula comeri on Tristan da Cunha. Ornis Svecica, 31, 107–112.



Short Communications