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Purple Gems

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Purple Gallinules are one of the shyer creatures of our wetlands, and to spy one is always fun. It’s ironic that they’re so timid, given their bold coloring. But it’s always a joy to watch these purple, blue, and green gems — especially since they’re my favorite colors, wrapped up into one bright little bird.

Purple Gallinule, Green Cay Wetlands, FL

I am spectacular, yes

Purple Gallinule, Green Cay Wetlands, FL

Perhaps you need to see me at a different angle, to fully comprehend my beauty

These lovely creatures live in the freshwater marshes of the southeastern United States, as well as in Central America and the Caribbean. There’s no mistaking this medium-sized rail, with its purple-blue plumage, green back, pale blue forehead, white undertail (of which I’ve caught more than one glimpse), bright red and yellow bill, and long yellow legs. The juveniles sport blander, brown colorations. The  gallinules’ long legs make them *seemingly* awkward fliers, so short bursts of activity are their mode of transportation — or swimming like a duck if they’re not navigating the marsh with those dangling legs. They nest in well-hidden floating constructs in the wetlands, laying 5-10 eggs.

Purple Gallinule, Green Cay Wetlands, FL

Dinner-time in the duckweed at dusk

Purple Gallinule, Green Cay Wetlands, FL

Heinie-feather shot in the duckweed

The Purple Gallinule is omnivorous, eating the seeds, leaves, fruits, and grains of both aquatic and terrestrial plants; they also enjoy insects, frogs, snails, spiders, earthworms, fish, and even the eggs and young of other birds. When I see them in our wetlands, they’re often alone, nestled in the vegetation and cackling away — or being chased by other birds, most often by their sister species the Common Moorhen.

Purple Gallinule, Green Cay Wetlands, FL

Munching on blossoms in the wetlands

Fun Fact:

Despite the appearance of an awkward flier, Purple Gallinules have flown far from their home tropical marshes. They’ve turned up in the northern U.S., Canada, and even Europe and South Africa!

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67 Comments Post a comment
  1. Beautiful birds, and your photos certainly do the justice!

    February 28, 2013
    • Thanks so very much… They really are beautiful little things! 🙂

      February 28, 2013
  2. Aw cute little birds! And so colorful. Haha they have huge feet. Great photos. I want to try to paint one of these birds.

    February 28, 2013
    • They have ENORMOUS feet, it’s so great… To see them stepping out is fantastic. But they need it, with all that wetland muck. 🙂

      A painting would be wonderful — their colors are just divine!

      February 28, 2013
  3. In all the many years I birded with my mother the expert birder, I can never recall her pointing out to me a bird’s heinie-feathers. hahahahahahaha! and hahahahahahaha!

    PS. hahahahahaha!

    February 28, 2013
    • Heeeeee…. Uh, that’s because she’s not nearly the expert birder that I am. (Dripping/pouring with sarcasm, there!!)

      February 28, 2013
      • again: ahhhahahahahahaha! sometimes ya just gotta call a heinie a heinie and move on!

        Oh! I got the Gorey Elephant book from the library–haven’t even opened it yet. (I tend to forget things easily, but how could I have forgotten I had a Gorey book?!)

        February 28, 2013
      • Oh yay! I can’t wait to see how much you love it… B/C I know you will! It’s so fascinating to get this rare glimpse.

        February 28, 2013
      • Oh indeed I loved it. I felt such a kinship with his brain…. he liked what he liked, so there! Feel sad that he’s dead, dangit. Do we know what happened to his cats?

        March 2, 2013
      • Wasn’t he just wonderful? I just saw an image with him and his kitties… Talk about LOVE! I’m SURE they were well cared for!!

        http://idiommag.com/2011/05/fan-friendly-therouxs-gorey/

        March 3, 2013
      • I’ve seen that photo before of Mr Gorey and his cat fan club. Lovely!

        hard to believe the author got permission so quickly to photograph the house….

        March 3, 2013
  4. Love those yellow feet. Seems their awkward qualities remind me of Coots.

    February 28, 2013
    • Most definitely!! Coots, gallinules, and rails tend to be lumped together in birds’ classifications — similar body types, and those dangling legs and FEET to navigate the mucky wetlands!

      February 28, 2013
  5. Brilliant colors you have captured in these birds thank you for sharing with us.

    February 28, 2013
    • Thanks so much! I was VERY happy to get as close as I did to these normally timid guys, who are usually far in the waters….

      February 28, 2013
  6. Loving your captures – what a unique, colored bird:) Have a Great One!

    February 28, 2013
    • They really are so very beautiful, and truly unique! I remember the first time I saw one, I was completely stupefied. Such a jewel! 🙂 Thanks so much…..

      February 28, 2013
  7. Pam #

    Oh how lucky of you to see them so well! I always seem to see them at a great distance and fleetingly. Beautiful!

    February 28, 2013
    • I really was SO lucky! You’re completely right — with me too, they’re usually very far in the wetlands, and I catch a flash of purple darting into the vegetation. 🙂 This guy was really close, and unusually brave — I was thrilled!!

      February 28, 2013
  8. Love the color scheme and the feet. Thought they could damage to some shellfish – but didn’t notice that in the menu. – Thanks, Lynn

    February 28, 2013
    • Their feet are a treat to see — so very necessary to navigate the muck of the swamp and marsh. We don’t have much shellfish around here, at least in the environment they live in… But perhaps in other areas!

      February 28, 2013
  9. Oh wow! Fantastics shots of this colorful beauty!! And lucky you to get to see and photograph it.
    I unfortunately have to be content with it’s cousin the common moorhen which is not very exciting at all.

    February 28, 2013
    • jimbey #

      …. Watch out, FeyGirl! Phil can’t talk smack about Coots here, so he’s talking trash about our Marsh Chickens! On the other hand, the moorhens always talk trash at ME when I’m out in the wetlands. OK, never mind. Rip ’em up, Phil! 🙂

      February 28, 2013
      • Well those chickens have some attitude I can tell you. The nerve of this one taking a nice little stroll across my man’s back here. 😦
        http://phillanoue.com/alligator-photos/#jp-carousel-4181

        February 28, 2013
      • Omigosh!! What a brave (or stupid? or blind?) little bird….! They usually steer fairly clear of the gators. Hahaaa…. That’s great.

        February 28, 2013
      • Hahaaaa!

        I just mentioned earlier about how our moorhens are always laughing at me. Strangely, I usually respond. 🙂

        February 28, 2013
    • Thanks so much! VERY lucky for me — they’re usually far in the wetlands, and I see a flash of purple darting into the vegetation. This guy (and his gal) were unusually close, and very brave! I was thrilled. 🙂

      Ah, we have LOTS of moorhen, too…. I always think they’re laughing at me when I miss the good shots.

      February 28, 2013
  10. your amazing photographs give the bird a lifelike apperance

    February 28, 2013
    • Thanks so much! They’re really unusual, brilliant birds — truly jewels in our ecosystem. 🙂

      February 28, 2013
  11. Thank you for a chance to see yet another beauty in creation. How many I have been introduced to by you, I cannot even count!!!

    February 28, 2013
    • Aw, that’s such a wonderful thing to say — I’m so happy! Thank you!!

      I remember the first time I saw these guys in the wild, I was tittering with joy… They really look like little sparkling jewels in the wetlands. 🙂

      February 28, 2013
  12. What gorgeous colours, but I reckon evolution was laughing when it created those feet!

    February 28, 2013
    • Hahah! They are fantastic to see, those dangling legs and enormous feet…. But they ARE able to navigate through the muck, that’s for sure. 🙂

      February 28, 2013
      • I’ve seen photos of them walking and standing on lily pads with those gigantic feet (like in this photo: http://i76.photobucket.com/albums/j15/mmeara/Birds/gallinule_1024.jpg). I thought maybe that’s why they are so huge.

        March 5, 2013
      • Oh yah, I’ve seen them walking around the aquatic plants in a similar manner…. I’m sure it helps for sure! But when I see them in that deep muck — wooo. They need that support!

        March 5, 2013
  13. All of them are very nice. But there is something about the last one, that I like the most. I like the way it’s framed with all those leaves. Aside from this, have you tried deleting my old blog’s subscription, and subscribing this new one? I wonder why that gave you trouble.

    February 28, 2013
    • Thanks so much… I like the last one too, because it shows the gallinule in its habitat, in a typical setting. That’s how they normally are, in our wetlands at least. 🙂

      Ah…. Great idea. I’m going to try this now. But I don’t know — it’s not even showing in my Blogger acct. This is so strange. And the new site isn’t allowing my email address, because I’m already there! Weird.

      February 28, 2013
  14. It looks similiar to our Hawaiian Moorhen and Hawaiian Coot except this bird is way prettier.

    February 28, 2013
  15. Oh he’s a cute fellow and can give the coot a run for his money. And of course, a bird butt shot ! I had one reader tell me he hasn’t seen my posts in a while. I think I caught your bug. 🙂

    February 28, 2013
    • Gotta love the heinie shots!!! 🙂

      Oh no….! I’m running a day or two behind, but I DID get your last one (I was able to go through, at least)!!

      March 1, 2013
  16. You are right. They are lovely creatures. And your photos are terrific!

    February 28, 2013
    • Thanks so much…. I was really lucky they were so (unusually) close, and brave! Usually I just see a flash of purple far in the wetlands. 🙂

      March 1, 2013
  17. Beautiful. It almost looks like a paint by number bird – never seen anything like that.

    February 28, 2013
    • Ha, that’s great — so true! The first time I saw one in the wild, I was thrilled. What…is…this….BIRD? Of course it’s common here in the winter, but so very brilliant.

      March 1, 2013
  18. Wow, beautiful photos. You are very talented and so lucky to be able to see such gorgeous creatures! My name is Nikki and we are in the same Writers group on LinkedIn, which is how I found your blog. Maybe you will give mine a visit if you have a moment to spare. Have an awesome day 🙂

    March 1, 2013
    • Ah, it’s so nice to meet you! Thanks very much for dropping by – and thanks so much for the kind words! I feel honored to be surrounded with such beauty, and I hope that it may be forever protected from the whims of human development.

      I’ll most definitely pop by your site! 🙂

      March 3, 2013
  19. This would make a good (and certainly colorful) Halloween costume.

    March 2, 2013
    • Hee, another blogger compared it to a paint-by-number bird…. 😉 They’re seriously unreal.

      March 3, 2013
  20. What a spectacular bird. I have never seen one, even though you say they have been as far as SA before. You are right, seems odd to be so shy when you’ve decided to dress up with such flair and colour.

    March 2, 2013
    • Aren’t they amazing? They’re just unreal… I remember the first time I saw one, I was in awe – purple! green! blue! 🙂

      I can’t fathom HOW they made it that far, but the pros say they have – they fly in such short bursts here.

      March 3, 2013
  21. I love beauty and your photos are magnificent but I imagine its not nearly as exquisite as actually seeing one of those magnificent birds up close in person.

    March 2, 2013
    • Thanks so very much! You’re completely right, of course…. These guys’ (all of them, really) beauty is so AWE-some, that it’s difficult to portray. Seeing them in their natural environment is still an amazing experience for me….!

      March 3, 2013
  22. I thought I had missed this but you didn’t link into Nature Notes this week. Really colorful little bird that I was not aware of…Michelle

    March 2, 2013
    • Ugh, I’m sorry about that! I guess I didn’t realize I have to physically go into your page to link…?

      These guys are so unusual, and intensely beautiful. I just love them.

      March 3, 2013
  23. I was going to say we don’t have these here, but I would have been wrong. We have the coots, of course, and moor hens. But some exploration tells me they’re “common” along the Upper Texas Coast, including at Anahuac Wildlife Refuge, where I saw the pink dragonfly.

    I’d best adjust my expectations and start looking around. The key is “fresh water marshes”. I’m around mostly salt or brackish water. I’ll have to travel to see them.

    March 3, 2013
    • Ah, I hope you get to see one! To spot them in the wild is a real treat. They’re just as brilliant as you see here — truly unreal. I do find it funny that they’re made so bright, but they’re so shy. 🙂

      March 3, 2013
  24. Who’s that walkin’ round here, Mercy
    Sounds like baby patter
    Baby elephant patter; thats what I calls it…
    From your ankles up, I’d say you sure are sweet
    From there down; there’s just too much feet
    Yes, your feets too big…” -Fats Waller

    love it, Fey!

    March 3, 2013
    • Omigosh that is FANTASTIC!!!

      Why couldn’t I have included that with the original post…. 🙂

      March 3, 2013
  25. Wow, what bright-colored birds! They’re beautiful birds that I’ve never seen before. Very cool!

    March 3, 2013
    • They’re so unusual and spectacular, it’s hard not to fall in love with them! 🙂

      March 4, 2013
  26. What amazing and pretty beaks they have. Lovely shots!

    March 3, 2013
    • Thanks so much…. These really are amazing little birds. I just adore them. 🙂

      March 4, 2013
  27. Amazing pictures of too cute birds! Thanks for sharing this!

    March 5, 2013
    • Aren’t they amazing and beautiful little things? Thanks so much. 🙂

      March 5, 2013
  28. If you like waterfowl you should check out the palm beach zoo which has one of the largest collection of waterfowl and they are even the only zoo to breed some of the waterfowl they have! I was never a huge fan of all the ‘ducks’ when I worked there, but really appreciated what cool species we had due to their rarity.

    April 23, 2013
    • Wow, I had no idea…. Thanks so much for the tip! I usually stick to my hikes for these shots, so the really unusual guys may elude me. 🙂

      April 23, 2013

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