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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Purple Gallinule -- Porphyrula martinica


RANGE: Breeds along the Atlantic Coast from Maryland and Delaware south through Central America to South America, and in eastern and southern Texas, the Gulf States, and Florida; locally in southern Illinois, western Tennessee, and central Ohio. Winters from southern Texas, Louisiana, and Florida south throughout remainder of breeding range.

STATUS: Uncommon throughout breeding range.

HABITAT: Characteristically inhabits marshy wetlands with a variety of marsh plants, especially where pickerelweed and plants with floating leaves, such as water lilies, are abundant. Walks freely on lily pads and other floating vegetation, alights readily on bushes, and climbs about in branches over water.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Freshwater marshes and swamps, ponds, and channels of slow moving water with well-vegetated edges.

NEST: Usually nests on an island of floating water plants. Builds a well-concealed nest, sometimes suspended and woven into marsh vegetation or willow thickets up to 6 feet above shallow water.

FOOD: Consumes both plant and animal foods, including the seeds of rice, duckweed, wild millet, and other aquatic plants; also eats mollusks, aquatic insects, snails, and worms.

REFERENCES: Cramp and Simmons 1980, Holliman 1977, Johnsgard 1975a, Low and Mansell 1983, Terres 1980.


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