Pictures and description of the Purple Swamphen bird

The Purple Swamphen

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Waterbirds Crake Rail Moorhen Watercock

The Purple Swamphen is a chicken size bird with large feet, bright turquoise plumage, with a robust red bill while the legs and feet are orange-red. A habit that the Purple Swamphen display is that it flicks its tail up and down while it is walking thus revealing its white undertail.

The Purple Swamphen prefers wet areas with high rainfall and likely this area would have permanent, fresh or brackish, still or slow-flowing water. Preferably some parts sheltered. Better still, the  habitat is that of an extensive wetlands with floating mats of water-lilies. These environment would that found in swamps, lake edges and vast wetlands.

The bird forages in the early morning and late evenings. Its diet includes  tender shoots and vegetable-like matter like leaves, roots, stems, flowers, seeds, rice, grasses, sedges, bananas, tapioca and yam  Beside having a a vegetative diet, they are also known to go for animals related items and a long list may look something like this:-  eggs, ducklings, small fish, invertebrate, mollusks, leeches, small crustaceans, earthworms  spiders, fish and fish eggs. Then larger prey like frogs and frog spawn, lizards, water snakes, adult birds, bird eggs and nestlings, small rodents and carrion

The body of the bird appears bulky, this ground bird is an accomplished flier. Any signs of discomfort, the Swamphen will readily take to the air for fairly long flight to get out of the foraging area. Though it is without the blessing of web feet, it is a good swimmer as well. Most time, by habit the Swamphen prefer to wander around  the water edges or among reeds and on floating vegetation. The bird, each individual display their own behavior and there are several. They could be sedentary, nomadic or partially migratory. That explain why certain times, the birds are not seen in an area while other times, a huge colony forage at the same place.

The bird call is unlike that of most birds could be very disturbing, for example during the mating season these are loud and bleating calls.

Purple Swamphen breeds in warm reed bed. Most time, the bird is seen as a couple and breeding in an individual nest. Also in the locations there are other Swamphens seen breeding in a colony. In this colony, many birds would be sharing a large dry platform sort of reed bed. It is assume that the couple joined others as in community living.

I have read that it is possible that colony has more males than females. Then more than one male would mate with the females. Then all family members would share the incubation and the care of the chicks and fledglings. Here is a picture of such a trampled reeds and the environment of the nest. Under such condition, it is possible for two broods of chicks could be raised annually, leading to good size colony in this vicinity.

Around the world, there could be more than 13 sub-species with variance in colors. Originally the bird was found in a belt from India, Sri Langka than east to South China and north Thailand. Then more variance found in Sumatra all the way to Bali. The bird was introduced to Florida

Purple Swamphen  Porphyrio porphyrio

Purple Swamphens  could grow to 42 cm long. This number itself is not big but a bird with a well rounded body plus having this figure makes them looking like a big bird. This is one bird like jungle fowl that is found in vast number of countries stretching from Africa, southern Europe, Indian sun-continent and south to the Philippines, Australian and New Zealand The bird appears in freshwater swamps reed bed, well vegetated lakes particularly those with water hyacinths.

Use to see families of these birds in the ex-mining ponds area especially with ponds filled with Water hyacinths. But the scene changed to we getting to see an isolated bird in the far distance or one hurriedly looking for shelters. Would be joy meeting up with 2-3 birds.

I will tell you where I saw plenty of these birds - Bidor and Malim Nawar. Like the Waterhen, another bird that I need not elaborate


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Most times when we were birding, we get to meet up with only a lone Swamphen or a pair foraging at the edge of wetland path. Then on those rare occasions, when in the wetland, we could see a small group of 6-8 Swamphens. During these times, we had limited opportunity and saw a small cross section of their lifestyle, which is not much.

However given chance to be in a really large lake or wetlands and there this bird gathering by the hundreds. This would be the time, we could see their colony in action. The birds bringing up the young and the different forms of nest. and also the food that they are eating. The information that can be collected are more conclusive and elaborate.