Bird genealogy >> Order Gruiformes >> Family Rallidae
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Albufeira, Algarve


Make Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Lens Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM   at 640 mm
Exposure 1/1250, f/14.0, ISO 1000 
Image size 800 x 534 pixels

IOC Names

Deutsch  Purpurhuhn Dutch  Purperkoet
Italian  Pollo sultano comune Spanish  Calamón Común


The Western Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) is a "swamp hen" in the rail family Rallidae. From its French name "Talève sultane", it is also known as the sultana bird. This chicken-sized bird, with its large feet, bright plumage and red bill and frontal shield is easily recognizable in its native range. It is found in Iberia, France, Sardinia and North Africa to Tunisia. The species makes loud, quick, bleating and hooting calls, which are hardly bird-like in tone. It is particularly noisy during the breeding season. Despite being clumsy in flight it can fly long distances, and it is a good swimmer, especially for a bird without webbed feet. The purple swamphen breeds in warm reed beds. Pairs nest in a large pad of interwoven reed flags, on a mass of floating debris or amongst matted reeds slightly above water level. The birds often live in pairs and larger communities and tend to be monogamous. They have been known to eat eggs, ducklings, small fish and invertebrates such as snails. They will often use one foot to bring food to their mouth rather than eat it on the ground. Where they are not persecuted they can become tame and be readily seen in towns and cities. Evidence from Pliny the Elder and other sources shows that the Romans kept purple swamphens as decorative birds at large villas and expensive houses. They were regarded as noble birds and were among the few birds that Romans did not eat. A purple swamphen is depicted at the bottom of the famous garden fresco from Pompeii.


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Purple Swamphen
Porphyrio porphyrio
Talève sultane