2022—Purple Swamphen

The Purple Swamphen is the largest rail in North America and it is similar to the Purple Gallinule, only much bigger, with enormous feet and a red shield-like beak. It is an invasive species originally from southern Asia. About thirty years ago, it began to establish itself in Florida’s swamps and marshes after some birds escaped from captivity. According to Sibley, the Florida Swamphens have mostly gray heads. Another common characteristic is that its tail is often flicked up revealing fluffy white feathers, just as in this shot from Lake Kissimmee. Captain Mark spotted it striding across the tussocks of water lilies and guided the airboat across the lilies to the perfect position for us to photograph this ungainly looking bird. I’d never heard of one, let alone seen one before our encounter in Florida. Very cool.