Birds – Purple Gallinules

Similar to Gallinula, but having a more slender form and oval rather than slit-like nostrils, are the beautiful Purple Gallinules, of which several genera are recognized, all with handsome plumage of chiefly opaque blue, purple, and green. The American Purple Gallinule (Ionornis martinica), mainly of tropical and warm temperate America, is about twelve and one half inches long, with the upper parts a bright olive-green, brighter on the wings, and the head, neck, and lower parts dark, rich purplish blue. The frontal shield in life is bright blue, the bill bright red tipped with yellow, the iris crimson, and the legs and feet yellow. This is essentially a southern species and is not common in the United States above the southern line of states. Like the others of its kin, it frequents the dense vegetation of marshes, where it feeds on mollusks, worms, and seeds. In Jamaica, where it is known as the “Sultana,” it is an abundant resident of the lowland ponds and marshy rivers, and is so bold and fearless as to appear in the open and stroll about with little heed to the passer-by. The nest according to Audubon is placed at a height of two to three feet from the ground, in a dense cluster of rushes fastened together by the birds. The eggs, five to eight in number, are similar to those of the Florida Gallinule, but with a paler ground color. To further show the varied and beautiful plumage of these birds, we may briefly describe the Green-backed Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio smaragdonotus) of South Africa. This bird, to quote from Sharpe, has the “head, hind part of the neck, and wing-feathers glossy violet; the back and rump, dull glossy green; the cheeks, throat, and fore part of the neck and under parts of the body, violet-blue, while the tail is dull green, and the vent-feathers pure white; while living, the frontal shield and bill are blood-red, and the legs and feet dark pink. They haunt the reedy borders of ponds and valleys.”