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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

Purple Gallinule

The Purple Gallinule is one of Florida’ s most graceful wading birds.

Member of the Rail family is a common resident throughout Florida’s swamps and ponds and freshwater marshes. You may have seen it walking lightly on lily pads and floating plants rather like a chicken using it’s very long toes for support. Light and elegant on water the Purple Gallinule swims gracefully on the surface of the water and uses it’ s large feet as propellers but in the air flight is slow and alkward. These gallinules will fly short distances with dangling legs

A beautifully colored bird of southern and tropical wetlands it can be recognised by it’s dark purple head, neck, and underside, green back, light blue forehead and red bill tipped with yellow. The bill is triangular like a chicken’ s, not flat like a duck’ s. With yellow legs – size wise measures 37-36 cm (15-14 in) - weighs : 208-288 g (7. 34-10. 17 ounces) and has a wingspan of 55 cm (22 in). The female bird is smaller than the male but both are similar appearance. The young at first are covered with fluffy black down. When fledged they are olive green on the upper parts and dull purple underneath.

The bird’s call contains clucking and cackling sounds just like those made by the chicken.

Their breeding habitat is warm swamps and marshes in the southeastern United States ( including Florida) as well as the tropical regions of Central America and the Caribbean.

The nest is a floating structure of dead tree stems and leaves usually placed on a floating tussock, in a clump of sawgrass or in a thicket. in a marsh. Five to ten eggs are laid. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks. Purple gallinules perform a " changing of the guard" ceremony while they are nesting. One partner will bring the other partner incubating the eggs a leaf. The bird on the nest adds the leaf to the nest before turning incubation duties over to the other gallinule. Their coloration is buff with brown spots.

These wading birds live in family groups The older young help feed the new clutch and defend the territory

The diet of these rails is omnivorous, being known to include a wide variety of plant and animal matter, including seeds, leaves and fruits of both aquatic and terrestrial plants, as well as insects, frogs, snails, spiders, earthworms and fish. It has also been known to eat the eggs and young of other birds.

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Page added on: 14 November 2008
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