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Purple Swamphen by Cheryl Crowley

Swamphen, Gray-headed

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Description

The Purple Swamphen is a very large member of the Rail family, with a huge triangular red beak and shield, red legs with very long slender toes and blue-violet feathers on the head and body. The back and upper wings are iridescent violet-green. Females are smaller than males.

Classification

Class
Aves
Order
Gruiformes
Family
Rallidae
Genus
Porphyrio
Species
P. porphyrio
Conservation Status
Least Concern

Key Facts

Size
70-90 cm (27-35 inches)
Weight
700-1000 grams (24- 35 ounces)

Social Life
Swamphens do not regularly migrate long distances. They move seasonally in response to changing habitat. Their call is a loud shriek of warning; they also flash their white rump feathers to warn of danger and deter predators. The courtship call is a humming sound. They tend to live in small groups of two to nine birds. Chicks from previous hatchings usually stay with the group for two to three years.

Habitat and Range
Fresh or brackish open wetland including swamps, rivers and even sewage ponds. Habitat extends into the cultivated fields, gardens and grasslands adjacent. Swamphens are found on all continents including Australia. The swamphens at Safari West most closely resemble the swamphens from eastern and southern Spain and southern France, and northern Africa including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

Diet
Swamphens are omnivores: plant foods are leaves, roots, stems, flowers and seeds; animal foods are a small proportion of the diet including arthropods and crustaceans, small fish and birds including their eggs and small rodents. They easily climb plants to take flowers and seeds, bird eggs and nestlings. Swamphens will build a platform for feeding and roosting. They are crepuscular, meaning they eat at dawn and dusk.

Lifespan
Most sources say eight to nine years.

Predators
Suffers from the drainage of wetlands, particularly in Europe. However, there have been some successful reintroduction in Western Europe. Eggs and chicks may be eaten by snakes, rodents or small carnivores such as foxes.

Reproduction
They reach sexual maturity around one to two years.

Breeding season is the rainy season; in the Mediterranean, this is usually March through June. Both parents build the nest, sometimes with helpers (offspring from the previous season). The nest is a shallow cup built on beaten down vegetation at the edge of the water; sometimes it is floating but is always well concealed by vegetation. There are one or two access ramps to the nest.

Swamphens are community nesters. Several females will lay their eggs in the same nest and all parents will care for the chicks. Usually, the female will lay 2-6 eggs, which hatch at 23-27 days.

Chicks can leave the nest almost immediately but are usually cared for by parents and helpers for a few days. They are assisted with feeding for 25-40 days and fledge at 60 days.

Information

Description

The Purple Swamphen is a very large member of the Rail family, with a huge triangular red beak and shield, red legs with very long slender toes and blue-violet feathers on the head and body. The back and upper wings are iridescent violet-green. Females are smaller than males.

Classification

Class
Aves
Order
Gruiformes
Family
Rallidae
Genus
Porphyrio
Species
P. porphyrio
Conservation Status
Least Concern

Key Facts

Size
70-90 cm (27-35 inches)
Weight
700-1000 grams (24- 35 ounces)

Social Life
Swamphens do not regularly migrate long distances. They move seasonally in response to changing habitat. Their call is a loud shriek of warning; they also flash their white rump feathers to warn of danger and deter predators. The courtship call is a humming sound. They tend to live in small groups of two to nine birds. Chicks from previous hatchings usually stay with the group for two to three years.

Habitat and Range
Fresh or brackish open wetland including swamps, rivers and even sewage ponds. Habitat extends into the cultivated fields, gardens and grasslands adjacent. Swamphens are found on all continents including Australia. The swamphens at Safari West most closely resemble the swamphens from eastern and southern Spain and southern France, and northern Africa including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

Diet
Swamphens are omnivores: plant foods are leaves, roots, stems, flowers and seeds; animal foods are a small proportion of the diet including arthropods and crustaceans, small fish and birds including their eggs and small rodents. They easily climb plants to take flowers and seeds, bird eggs and nestlings. Swamphens will build a platform for feeding and roosting. They are crepuscular, meaning they eat at dawn and dusk.

Lifespan
Most sources say eight to nine years.

Predators
Suffers from the drainage of wetlands, particularly in Europe. However, there have been some successful reintroduction in Western Europe. Eggs and chicks may be eaten by snakes, rodents or small carnivores such as foxes.

Reproduction
They reach sexual maturity around one to two years.

Breeding season is the rainy season; in the Mediterranean, this is usually March through June. Both parents build the nest, sometimes with helpers (offspring from the previous season). The nest is a shallow cup built on beaten down vegetation at the edge of the water; sometimes it is floating but is always well concealed by vegetation. There are one or two access ramps to the nest.

Swamphens are community nesters. Several females will lay their eggs in the same nest and all parents will care for the chicks. Usually, the female will lay 2-6 eggs, which hatch at 23-27 days.

Chicks can leave the nest almost immediately but are usually cared for by parents and helpers for a few days. They are assisted with feeding for 25-40 days and fledge at 60 days.