Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen wandering through some marshland

What does it look like? This large, predominantly purplish-blue and black rail is unmistakable with any other Australian waterbird. Its robust red bill and frontal shield and large orange-red legs and feet are also characteristic. The call, a loud “kee-ow”, is also distinctive.

Where does it live? The Purple Swamphen is a common sight throughout northern and eastern Australia, where it inhabits freshwater swamps, marshlands, and streams.

What are its habitats and habits? Swamphens are generally found in small groups, and studies have shown these consist of more males than females. More than one male will mate with a single female; and all members share in incubation and care of the young. For such a bulky bird, the Swamphen is an accomplished flier, readily taking to the air to escape danger. The main diet of this bird is the soft shoot soft reeds and rushes and small animals, such as frogs and snails, however, it is a reputed egg stealer, and will eat ducklings when it can catch them.  Food is held firmly with its long toes, while it is being consumed. 

Scientific name: Porphyrio porphyrio

Size:  44 to 48 cm

Do you want to know the best places to go to see this species? Check out our book “Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots” – available for purchase through our secure online store