Purple Swamphen

Porphyrio porphyrio poliocephalus




Rails, Gallinules and Coots (Rallidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Tan with brown spots.

Number of Eggs:

3 - 5

Incubation Days:

19 - 22

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

On or near water.

Nest Material:

Live vegetation such as reeds and grasses.





Purple Swamphen: Very large, blue-purple rail with a blue-black head, orange-red frontal shield and bill, green-blue back, and broad, blue and turquoise-blue wings. Red eye. Very short, black or blue-black tail with white undertail. Long, red-pink legs and long toes. Sexes are similar except female's head is mostly blue and male's head is mostly blue-gray. Feeds on green shoots and bits of vegetation, snails, small fish, and other small animals. The Purple Swamphen is an introduced species to North America and the plumage characteristics of this population appear consistent with the P. p. poliocephalus subspecies that is native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, eastward to south central China, and northern Thailand, and/or P. p. caspius, native to eastern Turkey, the Caspian Sea, and northwestern Iraq.

Range and Habitat

Purple Swamphen: A nonnative population in southeast Florida has been established, likely from accidental escapes in the mid 1990s. Their native range is from parts of the Middle East and India to northern Thailand and southern China. In Florida, it is found in shallow flooded wetlands and nearby grassy areas, such as lawns and golf courses.

Breeding and Nesting

Purple Swamphen: More study is needed about the breeding habits of the North American population. In its native range, 3-7 brown-spotted tan eggs are laid in a nest made of fresh vegetation such as reeds and leaves very near the water or even floating on it. Incubation lasts 19-22 days and is carried out by both sexes and possibly helpers.

Foraging and Feeding

Purple Swamphen: Feeds on green shoots, bits of vegetation, roots, small fish, snails, other small animals, and food brought by humans. It can also take the eggs and nestlings of other birds. Forages by walking through wetlands and picking up food items with its bill. It also picks up food with its foot and then transfers the item to its bill.


Purple Swamphen: Vocal species with a large repertoire. Calls range from low moans to metallic, high-pitched screeches. Contact call is a soft "n-yip". Flight call is a squawk.

Similar Species

Purple Swamphen: Purple Gallinule has yellow legs, yellow-tipped red bill, bluish frontal shield, brownish back and wings, and dark eye.

Frontal shieldX
The area where the bill extends onto the forehead of the bird. It is often brightly colored and is meant to grab the attention of other birds.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X