General Description

A dark blue-black body with purple-blue sides and underparts. Their forehead and bill are bright red and their long legs and feet are orange-red. Purple Swamphens flick their tails up and down while walking, revealing their white undertails. Body is up to 50 cm long. They look superficially similar to the Dusky Moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa), but are bigger and distinctively purple rather than black all-over.


Purple Swamphens breed in solitary pairs or small groups. They build nesting platforms in the water and roost in trees overhanging water, building cup-shaped nests from trampled grass and reeds. Females lay three to five eggs which are incubated and later cared for by all family members. Two broods are typically raised each year. They feed mainly on aquatic vegetation, including leaves, seeds, flowers and stems, and graze on grasses and reeds near wetlands. They also eat invertebrates, including crustaceans and molluscs, and sometimes fish, frogs, birds, mammals and carrion. Purple Swamphens prefer to roam amongst reeds and other vegetation on the water's edge, but are also capable swimmers. During flight, their long legs droop underneath their body.


Eastern, northern and south-western Western Australia, Tasmania and offshore islands. Also New Zealand, south-west Pacific Islands and New Guinea.


Freshwater wetlands, swamps, marshes, streams and occasionally urban areas with ponds.

More Information