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Purple Swamphen


Purple Swamphen


Porphyrio porphyrio


The Purple Swamphen is a large waterhen with a distinctive heavy red bill and forehead shield. They have red eyes and a deep blue head and breast, with black upper parts and wings. In bright sunlight the plumage shines with an intense blue sheen. Long reddish legs with long slender unwebbed toes help it walk and feed in shallow water. They have a white undertail that is exposed when they flick their tail up and down.

In flight they are awkward, dangle their legs and sometimes crash-land into water or vegetation. Their call is a harsh screaming noise and they can be very aggressive towards other waterfowl. They roost in vegetation, usually reeds, over water where they trample down the reeds to form a platform.

Purple Swamphens are usually found around the margins of swamps and lakes with dense reeds and rushes mainly throughout eastern Australia. They are also found in parks and gardens with ponds – including Centennial Parklands. Their food is made up of seeds, insects, frogs and aquatic vegetation, but they will also eat eggs, small mammals and carrion. They have the strength to pull up reeds and feed on the soft stems.

Breeding can take place at any time, but mainly from July to December. The nest is built in a clump of reeds just above the water in a swamp or lake. The large nest bowl is formed from trampled reeds and rushes, lined with softer reeds and grass.

Both sexes incubate the 3–8 eggs for about a month. The chicks are fluffy black balls on long legs, with a reddish brown crown. They can produce several broods in a season. Spring in the Parklands should provide excellent opportunities to see both adult and juvenile Purple Swamphens.

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