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African Swamphen - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by marko.marais
Marievale Nature Reserve, Nigel, South Africa, 7 July 2019
Porphyrio madagascariensis


38–50 cm (15-19¾ in)

  • Red bill and frontal shield
  • Large feet
  • Green back


Locally in Egypt, Africa south of the Sahara and Madagascar.


This is a monotypic species.
Formerly considered conspecific with Western Swamphen, Grey-headed Swamphen, Black-backed Swamphen, Philippine Swamphen and Australasian Swamphen under the name Purple Swamphen.


Reed beds and wet areas with high rainfall, swamps, lake edges and damp pastures.


The birds live in pairs and larger communities.


The birds make a nest of woven reeds on floating debris or amongst reeds. More than one female will use the nest and they share incubating the eggs for 24 days. Each bird lays 3-6 speckled eggs and the nest can contain up to 12 eggs.


Diet includes tender shoots and vegetable-like matter, invertebrates (like snails), small fish, and eggs from nests and they also eat ducklings. It is a good swimmer, especially for a bird without webbed feet.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Trewick, S.A. 1997. "Flightlessness and phylogeny amongst endemic rails (Aves: Rallidae) of the New Zealand region." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. (352) 429-46.
  3. Sangster, G. 1998. "Purple Swamp-hen is a complex of species." Dutch Birding (20) 13-22.
  4. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2015. IOC World Bird Names (version 5.3). Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
  5. Absolute Astronomy

Recommended Citation

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