Photo: Gaurika Wijeratne/Flickr (BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Gray-headed Swamphen

Porphyrio poliocephalus

Native to southern Asia, these big marsh birds have been established in Florida since the 1990s. First noted near Pembroke Pines in 1996, the population might have originated with birds that escaped from captivity after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Now widespread around marshes and ponds in southeastern Florida, where they may number in the thousands. Some authorities treat this bird as a subspecies of the Purple Swamphen, widespread in the Old World from southern Europe to southern Africa and New Zealand.
Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots
Habitat Shallow freshwater wetlands, including marshes, ponds, and flooded fields. Also will forage in open grassy areas near water, such as lawns and golf courses.
Native to southern Asia, these big marsh birds have been established in Florida since the 1990s. First noted near Pembroke Pines in 1996, the population might have originated with birds that escaped from captivity after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Now widespread around marshes and ponds in southeastern Florida, where they may number in the thousands. Some authorities treat this bird as a subspecies of the Purple Swamphen, widespread in the Old World from southern Europe to southern Africa and New Zealand.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by wading along shorelines or in shallow marshes or wet fields, sometimes by climbing about in marsh vegetation, occasionally while swimming. Often stands on one foot and uses other foot to grasp plant stems and pull them up to beak.


Eggs

Each breeding female lays 3-7 eggs, but multiple females may lay in same nest. Eggs are tan or buff with darker brown spots. Incubation is by both sexes, and probably takes about 3 weeks. Young: Fed by adults at first. May start to find some of their own food within a few days after hatching, but adults continue to feed them for several weeks.


Diet

Mostly plant material, including stalks, roots, leaves, and seeds of aquatic plants, especially spikerush in Florida. Also eats some insects, frogs, snails, and other small creatures, or scavenges food scraps left by humans.


Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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