PURPLE SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio porphyrio)

In the 2 years I’ve lived in this western suburb of Melbourne, there are certainly many native birds which I’ve seen before……mainly the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, but also The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo and down at the local bayside beaches within public transport distance of the city centre.

The Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) is one of them.

There are usually 4-5 Swamphens grazing on the low-lying field behind my apartment building.

Looking across the field to the walking path and Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve in the background.
Looking over the low-lying field on the right-hand side of the path leading down to the river – 2016

The field is about the size of a soccer field and is much lower than the path leading down to the river, so one imagines it might flood if the river burst its banks and flooded the area as it did in….

“Since 1871 there have been 27 recorded floods in the Maribyrnong area, with large floods occurring approximately every 10-20 years. The highest recorded flood affecting the Maribyrnong floodplain was in September 1906, and the next known highest was in May 1974″.

Not sure, but I seem to remember the area further along the river flooded in 2011 (but don’t quote me on that).

The 2 lakes, Nymphaea Lake and the large Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens are home to many Purple Swamphens and I was lucky enough to see one tiny chick struggling onto a floating island in the Botanic Gardens only a  few years ago.  I’ve made a number of images in the early years of my Photography hobby of these birds and you can usually get quite close to them in the RBG.

I can only get as close as about 20 feet in my own ‘backyard’.  They are not as used to humans in this area.

But the first time I saw one was a juvenile in April 2011.

Purple Swamphen (juvenile)
A purple Swamphen in a golden Wattle at Ringwood Lake in the outer eastern suburbs where I was born and grew up.


14 thoughts on “PURPLE SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio porphyrio)

    1. I thought you would like these images. If you look at their legs you would notice how easy it was for me to work out what the birds were at the pond last Wednesday. They just looked like a bundle of dark feathers. We don’t have swamps around here these days, but I daresay one of the early settlers gave them the name ‘Purple Swamphen” Now the coastal regions of Australia, where something like 93% of the population live, are cleared with cities and towns, swamps are few and far between. It’s only since I took up Photography as a hobby in ‘early’ retirement that I’ve noticed the birdlife.

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    1. There were 3 similar shots of the gals, but I figured one was enough to ‘set the scene’. It was really funny with the 3 hens twisting around trying to see their backsides after the event. In the bright sunlight, they are a colourful bird and really quite large as you would have seen in Canberra.

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    1. I think the Eurasian Coots might have the largest feet of any small bird I’ve photographed before, although when I saw the Black-necked stork sitting or standing (?) on dry land maybe that’s got the largest.

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  1. The African Purple Swamphen (what a name!) used to be known as the Purple Gallinule – a much more dignified name, I think. It looks similar to yours except the feathers on its back are greenish.

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  2. Just today I saw coots and moorhens at the refuge. We have purple gallinules also, but they tend to favor other areas, where there are a lot of waterlilies and lotus with pads for them to walk on. They’re such beautiful birds, and funny as can be. The coots have been coming in, slowly, but I saw a group of about thirty today, so the migration is on.

    I was astonished to find a pair of buffleheads yesterday. I didn’t get any decent photos at all, but at least I know where they seem to have set up shop, so maybe I’ll get another chance. I’ve never seen them before, and they are striking birds.

    I have a pair of pigeons that have been circling each other for about two weeks now. I keep telling them to slow down — wait until winter’s over. I’m not sure they’ll take my advice.

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    1. How exciting to see so many birds. Sounds like the waterlilies are part of the lure.

      Sounds like you have good bird photography days and bad ones (like me). Sometimes its the light, sometimes, their movement (well, we’ll blame it on the birds LOL), sometimes it’s we photographers.

      I think any birds in flight are hard to photograph, so hopefully the pigeons will flight down for a rest and pose for you. I find bids fascinating to watch. Many seem to have unique personalities, but they all seem highly protective of their offspring.

      Hope you get a chance to photograph the buffleheads and share online – I’ve love to see them 🙂


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