Image: Purple Swamphen Illustration
Purple Swamphens are large waterhens that live among dense reeds in freshwater lakes, swamps and streams throughout most of Australia except inland Western Australia.
- Andrew Howells
- © Australian Museum
- Common name:
- Purple Swamphen
- Scientific name:
- Porphyrio porphyrio
Purple Swamphens are large waterhens that live among dense reeds in freshwater lakes, swamps and streams throughout most of Australia except inland Western Australia. They are bright blue to purple on the neck and breast and browner on the back. They have bright red, short beaks with a shield extending from the base of the beak towards the top of the head. They have feet with three very long toes facing forwards and one very long toe facing backwards. Purple Swamphens call with a harsh, screeching noise.
Purple Swamphens climb through low vegetation on their long-toed feet looking for young reed stems, herbs, seeds, fruit, insects, spiders and molluscs to eat during the day. They use their beak to bite off reed stems at the base and then hold them in one foot to eat. They swallow other food items whole.
Purple Swamphens build nests from a platform of reeds trampled into a dish shape by the whole flock. They line the platform with grass. Females lay three to five pale green eggs blotched with brown and purple. All the females in the flock take turns to sit on the eggs for 23 to 29 days. When the eggs hatch the chicks are covered in soft down. The chicks can run and follow an adult to food in just a few days and have feathers and are ready to fly in eight weeks.
Although Purple Swamphens spend much of their time in and around water they rarely swim, preferring to wade and climb through vegetation.