Battle lines

Moorhen pairs each have their own territory. Their badges of rank are their red beaks, the head shields and the white patches on either side of their tail. Rivals assess one another's strength according to the size and brilliance of those head shields. If two male moorhens feel that they are of equal rank, then they may not want to contend the boundary position and they may display their white tail patches to indicate that they are not interested in confrontation. But if one male thinks he is of a higher rank then he will go on the offensive to gain some new ground. Moorhens can be badly hurt in these fights, but the senior bird has to fight if he is to retain his rank. If the junior bird surrenders, then they will not have to fight again unless the boundary is overstepped.

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