Purple Gallinule: Colorful, Warm Climate, Wader

By Dave Hanks

There is a trail in the Florida Everglades called the Anhinga Trail. It is a special area because you can get very close and personal to many birds. You can also get quite close and personal with Alligators (a big “Granddaddy” was bellowing like a mad bull) and Cottonmouths. It’s a great place to obtain photographs. As you look down into the watery shrubbery, you have an excellent chance of seeing a Purple Gallinule going about the business of pecking through the watery vegetation, just as if you weren’t there.

This multi-colored bird of purples, greens, reds, and yellows; is called a “Swamp Hen”. It is the size of a chicken and has a yellow (with red at the base) chicken-like beak. It is an omnivore that will eat frogs and fish, in addition to tender, aquatic plant shoots and seeds.

Gallinules live in warm, fresh water marshes where lily pads and pickle weed grow. They swim on the water surface like a duck, but can also walk on lily pads and other floating vegetation. Their huge yellow feet, allows then to do this. Their long toes can be spread to evenly distribute their weight over the plant’s surface. They also build their nests on floating tussocks. When in flight, you can see a pair of dangling legs, unlike other birds that tuck them close to their bodies.

This secretive bird is found in our southeastern states – especially the coastlines. Not many species are so varied and brightly colored, so when you do get “lucky” and see one, those bright colors will make an impression upon you.

(Stealthily foraging in the marsh vegetation)