Australian Bush Birds
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Purple Swamphen  -  Porphyrio porphyrio
Purple Swamphen
Purple Swamphen carefully walking along a log in the Murray River at Berri. The tail is flicked up showing the white patch.
Purple Swamphen Purple Swamphen
Left. The red shield and the red bill gleam in the sun. Right. The tail flicks up as the bird walks exposing the white patch.
map map The Purple Swamphen - Porphyrio porphyrio - is a large purple bird with stout red bill and frontal shield. Red eyes. Crown, back of neck and back are black. Under parts are deep blue to purple-black. Breast can appear slaty blue-grey in dull light but is bright, intense blue in bright sunshine. Powerful red or orange legs, toes long. White under tail. Male and female alike. Grows 45 to 50 centimetres. Juveniles have browner bill, iris and plumage.

Aggressive and bullying towards other birds and readily takes food and kills ducklings. Often flicks up the tail while walking exposing white feathers.

Lives in wetlands, typically swamps or well-vegetated lake and river margins, adjacent grasslands and lawns.

Purple Swamphen - page 2
Found in the eastern mainland states and Tasmania, as well as eastern South Australia and south-east Northern Territory. A separate population of the main sub-species (melanotus) is found in Kimberley, Pilbara and western Top End. A different sub-species ( bellus) found in south-west Western Australia, this has a turquoise centre to the deep blue breast and under parts, obvious only in direct sunlight.

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