Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Purple Swamphen

The Purple Swamphen also known as the Purple coot or Purple Moorhen is a large bird of the family, Rallidae. South Asian species of this bird have a green back and are overall blue in color. The bird is about chicken sized, with bright plumage and red bill, making it unmistakable to recognize. The birds have elaborate courtship behaviour, with the male holding water reeds in its bill and bowing to the females with quite loud chuckles. The nests are interwoven reeds on floating debris above water levels. An interesting fact to note - multiple females use the nest for laying eggs and they share the incubation duties ( communal nesting).

Purple Swamphens normally live in pairs and larger communities. They eat tender roots and vegetable matter. They also feed on small vertebrae like snails and can also prey on other eggs and small ducklings. The birds are extremely good swimmers, specially since they are birds without webbed feet. The birds are clumsy in flight but this does not inhibit them from flying long distances.

I sighted the Purple Swamphen at a two different suburbs of Coimbatore. A friend of mine had accompanied me in trying to gauge the number of ponds/lakes around coimbatore and the amount of diversity they supported. We almost missed these birds if not for the attractive plumage the birds had. What caught our eye was the brilliant purple green feathers and the brilliant red beak. Many of such of these ponds have been destroyed by man's greediness and selfishness. These ponds and water bodies perform a very important task. During rainy season they become the natural store house for all the excess water and rejuvenate the ground water table.

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