American Purple Gallinule

Porphyrio martinica
Range Map

In the Old World lives a species called the Purple Swamphen or Western Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), which is sometimes called Purple Gallinule. For this reason, the more accurate and preferred name for the New World bird is American Purple Gallinule.

Our Purple Gallinule is an unforgettable bird. Once you meet one, the impression is immediate and everlasting. In 2021, while spring migration was in full swing, I met my first one on South Padre Island. I was on the lookout for warblers, vireos, flycatchers and other passerines, when a psychedelic green-blue-purple bird about the size of a chicken walked across the lawn and nearly right up to me, before slipping into the nearby tall grass and understory. I lost track of the bird, but later found it in the nearby marsh at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.

Our Purple Gallinule ranges across most of the South American continent, Central America, and coastal Mexico. In the USA, while we occasionally see them in many unexpected places, only Florida hosta a year-round population. During breeding season, these birds explore slightly further north and raise families near the Gulf Coast of the southeaster USA.

Today’s science recognises no subspecies of American Purple Gallinule (i.e. they are monotypic).

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