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Purple Swamphen

The Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), also known as the African Purple Swamphen, Purple Moorhen, Purple Gallinule, or Purple Coot, is a species of bird compromising of at least six subspecies: P. p. porphyrio in Europe, P. p. madagascariensis in Africa, P. p. poliocephalus in tropical Asia, P. p. melanotus in much of Australasia, P. p. indicus in Indonesia, and P. p. pulverulentis in the Philippines.

The Purple Swamphen prefers wet areas with high rainfall, swamps, lake edges and damp pastures. The breeding habitat is warm reed beds across southernmost Europe, Africa, tropical Asia, and Australasia. There are occasional reports of Purple Swamphens in Britain and elsewhere, mostly escapees from captivity. There is also an introduced population in Florida, though state wildlife biologists are trying to eradicate these birds.

European birds are mainly purple-blue. African and south Asian birds have a green back. Australasian and Indonesian birds have black backs and heads. The Philippines subspecies is pale blue with a brown back. These birds have huge feet. This species has a loud disruptive call that is often described as a raucous high-pitched screech, with a subdued musical tuk-tuk. Despite being a clumsy flier it can fly long distances. It is also a good swimmer, especially for a bird without webbed feet.

The male has an elaborate courtship display, holding water weeds in his bill and bowing to the female with loud chuckles. Mating pairs nest in a large pad of interwoven reeds or a mass of floating debris above the water level in wetland areas. Multiple females lay in one nest and share incubation duties. Each bird lays 3 to 6 pale yellow to reddish-brown eggs that are blotched or spotted. Each nesting site can may contain up to 12 eggs. Incubation lasts 24 days.

This bird will clamber through reeds eating tender shoots and vegetable matter. They sometimes will feed on invertebrates as well and may steal eggs from nests and also eat ducklings and small fish. They will often use one foot to bring food to their mouth rather than eat it on the ground.

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Purple Swamphen


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