Purple Swamphen

The Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) is a large, conspicuous, though shy water hen with a robust, triangular scarlet bill, and scarlet forehead shield, deep blue head and breast, underparts black with snow-white undertail coverts exposed by a flicking tail, and long reddish legs. The sexes are similar and full colour remains all year round.

It inhabits margins of swamps, lakes and shallow rivers with dense rushes and reeds. It is familiar in town water areas in daytime, but, at dusk, will venture to open country to feed. It can swim but rarely does so. It runs fast on land but flight is laboured and clumsy.

The purple swamphen feeds on tender young reed stems, frogs and molluscs. It is aggressive to other birds and is known to kill ducklings. It breeds from July to December in South Australia. The nest is a shallow bowl-shaped structure of rushes and grass on a shallow platform of trampled down reeds. There are 3 to 5 eggs. (Contributed by Jo G.)