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Porphyry pearl

June 13, 2016

IMG_2972No, the title doesn’t refer to that much-maligned sparkling wine of the 1960s (for those old enough to remember it!), but instead to that strikingly colourful waterfowl, the Purple Swamphen, which has the delightful scientific name Porphyrio porphyrio meaning ‘Purple Water-hen’, originally from the Greek porphuroeis, purple.

A group of these birds can regularly be seen on the roadside on Upper King Parrot Creek Road, just a short distance out of Strath Creek. They are presumably attracted there by the lush watered grass outside ‘Callandoon’ and have become quite accustomed to passing traffic. But they are also often found along the banks of the King Parrot Creek in the same area.
The purple swamphen spends much of its time on land, strutting on big feet and long legs, flicking its tail to show the white underneath. It is an accomplished if rather clumsy flyer and doesn’t often swim, being essentially a wader in swampy vegetation on the margins of various wetlands. It feeds on soft shoots of water plants, but also small animals such as frogs, snails and reportedly even ducklings – and remarkably, lerps in trees, according to a reference in Where Song Began by Tim Low.
Purple Swamphen
Purple swamphens are common across most of northern and eastern Australia, with a separate sub-species in southwest Western Australia. It is also found as various sub-species in parts of Europe, Africa and Asia.
It emits quite a variety of sounds – brief examples of its calls recorded near Shepparton by Jo Wood from the Goulburn Broken CMA can be heard by clicking on the audio bar below.

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