- Porphyrio melanotus
38–50 cm (15-19¾ in)
- Red bill and frontal shield
- Orange legs and feet
- Long, slim toes.
- Black back and head
- Eyes are red
Females are smaller than males. Juveniles are similar to adults but duller, with black eyes and black bill and shield that turn to red around 3 months of age.
Rare Takahe is about twice the size (in weight) and flightless, with a green back and wing cover. Juveniles may be confused with the Spotless Crake which lacks a frontal shield and has a more slender bill. Dusky Moorhen is more likely to be seen swimming, and is smaller and greyer with a yellow tip to its red bill, and a dark centre to its white undertail. Black-tailed Native Hen is much smaller with a green-and-orange bill, white spots on its flanks and a longer black tail.
Five subspecies recognized:
- P. m. pelewensis:
- Palau Islands (Koror and Anguar)
- P. m. melanopterus:
- P. m. bellus:
- Extreme south-western Australia
- P. m. melanotus:
- P. m. samoensis:
Reed beds and wet areas with high rainfall, swamps, lake edges and damp pastures.
The birds live in pairs and larger communities.
The birds make a nest of woven reeds on floating debris or amongst reeds. More than one female will use the nest and they share incubating the eggs for 24 days. Each bird lays 3-6 speckled eggs and the nest can contain up to 12 eggs.
Diet includes tender shoots and vegetable-like matter, invertebrates (like snails), small fish, and eggs from nests and also eat ducklings. It is a good swimmer, especially for a bird without webbed feet.
Territorial ‘crowing’ is the loudest and most commonly heard call. A variety of contact calls including ‘’n’yip’, ‘hiccup’ and ‘squawk.’
No regular long distance migrations. Local seasonal movements, in response to changing habitat.
- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
- Trewick, S.A. 1997. "Flightlessness and phylogeny amongst endemic rails (Aves: Rallidae) of the New Zealand region." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. (352) 429-46.
- Sangster, G. 1998. "Purple Swamp-hen is a complex of species." Dutch Birding (20) 13-22.
- Gill, F & D Donsker (Eds). 2018. IOC World Bird List (v8.2). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.8.2. Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
- Absolute Astronomy
- Dey, C.; Jamieson, I. 2013. Pukeko. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz
- Garcia-R, J. C. & Trewick, S. A. 2015. Dispersal and speciation in purple swamphens (Rallidae: Porphyrio). Auk 132(1): 140-155. PDF
- Marchant, S.; Higgins, P.J. (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol. 2, raptors to lapwings. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
- Ripley, S. D., Lansdowne, J. F. & Olson S. L. (1977) Rails of the world: a monograph of the family Rallidae. Godine.
- Taylor, B. (2017). Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/53681 on 28 March 2017).
- BirdForum Opus contributors. (2021) Australasian Swamphen. In: BirdForum, the forum for wild birds and birding. Retrieved 21 January 2021 from https://www.birdforum.net/wiki/Australasian_Swamphen