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7

Australasian Swamphen

(Porphyrio melanotus)
Alternate name(s): "Purple Swamphen*", "Eastern Swamp-hen", "Bald Coot", "Purple Gallinule", "Purple Water-hen", "Black-backed Water-hen", "Macquarie-hen", "Redbill", "Purple Moorhen", "Purple Coot", "Puekeko*"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "melanotus": "giyahng" [bundjalung]; "bulindal" [ngadjon]; "booringal", "goolima";
Race "bellus": "kwilom", "koolema", "moolar"

Size: 44-48 cm
Weight: 0.7-1.3 kg

Similar
species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Australasian Swamphen at Wikipedia .

Click here for classification information

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "melanotus"

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

ADULT

Sex unknown

Close-up frontal view of an adult Australasian Swamphen
[Cattai Wetlands, Coopernook, NSW, October 2023]

Close-up frontal view of an Australasian Swamphen
[Cattai Wetlands, Coopernook, NSW, October 2023]

Near-frontal portrait of an Australasian Swamphen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2012]

Near-frontal view of an Australasian Swamphen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Near-lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Botanical Garden, Melbourne, VIC, April 2022]

Close-up near-lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, June 2006]

Lateral portrait of an Australasian Swamphen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2012]

Close-up lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen
[Dunn's Swamp, Wollemi NP, NSW, October 2016]

Close-up lateral view from above of an Australasian Swamphen looking towards the observer
[Rockhampton, QLD, July 2009]

Lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen wading through shallow water
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, March 2009]

Lateral view of a preening Australasian Swamphen
[Dunn's Swamp, Wollemi NP, NSW, October 2016]

Lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen looking backwards
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Close-up near-dorsal view of an Australasian Swamphen (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Batemans Bay, NSW, April 2023]

Near-dorsal view of an Australasian Swamphen
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, June 2011]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

This immature Australasian Swamphen has adult plumage, but the shield and bill have not turned red yet
(photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, January 2015]

Near-dorsal view of a juvenile Australasian Swamphen looking sideways
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2012]

Lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen chick on its way somewhere... (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, November 2015]

Lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen chick racing to get back into the cover of nearby reeds
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2012]

Partly obscured lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen with its chick
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Here the Australasian Swamphen chick is being fed
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Two very young Australasian Swamphen chicks in plain view (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Eastlakes golf course, Sydney, NSW, October 2013]

Race "bellus"

ADULT

Sex unknown

Frontal view of an Australasian Swamphen extending its wings (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, May 2021]

Close-up near-frontal view of an Australasian Swamphen (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Lake Claremont, Perth, WA, January 2015]

Near-lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen foraging on grassland around a suburban lake
(photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, December 2014]

Near-lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen extending its wings (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, May 2021]

Close-up lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, August 2022]

Close-up lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Claremont, Perth, WA, August 2022]

Lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, December 2014]

Lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, December 2014]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-frontal view of an Australasian Swamphen chick (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, October 2022]

Near-lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen with a chick (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Claremont, Perth, WA, October 2022]

Lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen chick (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, October 2022]

Near-dorsal view of an Australasian Swamphen chick (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, October 2022]

Breeding information

Breeding season: All year Eggs: 3 - 8 Incubation period: 23 - 29 days Fledging age: ca. 42 days

Given the right conditions (and depending on geographical latitude), Australasian Swamphens can breed any time of the year, often more than one brood per year.

Nest building: ? Incubation: Female & male Dependent care: Female & male

Australasian Swamphens mating - the difficult part is to get on top...
[Mother of Ducks Lagoon NR, Guyra, NSW, March 2012]

... the rest, once you are in balance, is easier
[Mother of Ducks Lagoon NR, Guyra, NSW, March 2012]

Nest

"bungobittah", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Reeds, rushes, grass stems Height above ground: N/A

The nest is usually well hidden in a dense clump of reeds.

Australasian Swamphen at its nest with at least two small chicks inside; a third is already wandering about at the lower left (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2014]

Close-up lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen breaking off pieces of paperbark for its nest
(photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, September 2022]

Close-up lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen collecting pieces of paperbark for its nest
(photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, September 2022]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "mirk", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena", "pum-pum" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 52 x 35 mm Colour: Mid-brown, with greyish dark-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Vagrant/dispersive Elementary unit: Flock

Australasian Swamphes are primarily waders. When disturbed they will either vanish into dense foliage/reeds or fly away somewhat clumsily. They are not often seen swimming.

Near-dorsal view of an Australasian Swamphen paddling away from the photographer
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Australasian Swamphen trying to attract the observer's attention and thereby lure the potentail threat away from its chicks (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2014]

Although often seen squabbling, Australasian Swamphens can live together in large numbers - see photo below.

Flock of Australasian Swamphens in reeds in shallow water
[Wetlands of Capricorn Resort, Yeppoon, QLD, July 2009; see credits page for details]

About 50 Australasian Swamphens foraging on a sports ground
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Lateral view of an Australasian Swamphen trying to impress the by displaying the white patch feathers conspicuously
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, May 2012]

Australasian Swamphen's typical tail flick - tail down (photo courtesy of A. Ross Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, December 2013]

Australasian Swamphen's typical tail flick - tail up (photo courtesy of A. Ross Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, December 2013]

Australasian Swamphen using its foot to hold on to its next meal (photo courtesy of A. Ross Taylor)
[Botanical Gardens, Gold Coast, QLD, October 2019]

This Australasian Swamphen was observed chasing away an Australian Raven that was also trying to scavenge food from tourists
[Dunn's Swamp, Wollemi NP, NSW, October 2016]

Food, Diet

Australasian Swamphens feed mostly on young shoots of reeds and other aquatic plants; they are also known to feed on grassland, e.g. in urban parks, and also small animals.

Near-frontal view of an Australasian Swamphen with part of an aquatic plant in its bill
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2012]

Near-dorsal view of an Australasian Swamphen taking grass seeds
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Near-frontal view of an Australasian Swamphen feeding on grass on a lawn (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Botanical Garden, Melbourne, VIC, April 2022]

Adult Australasian Swamphen feeding its juvenile youngster the soft, white part of an aquatic plant, which it has specifically separated from the rest of the plant (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Robina, Gold Coast, QLD, May 2015]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

purphen_20200313.m4a australis
(NW NSW)
Warning calls(?) (+Magpie Goose) © MD
purphen_20160725.mp3 australis
(NW NSW)
Annoyed calls(?) © MD
purphen_20211031.m4a australis
(NW NSW)
Fight over feeding rights © MD

We have also recorded the wing beat of an Australian Swamphen.

purphen_20211018.m4a australis
(NW NSW)
Short flight into reeds © MD

More Australian (Purple) Swamphen sound recordings are available at xeno-canto.org .

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

Would you like to contribute photos or sound recordings to this site?
If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.