Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinica

Richard L. West and Gene K. Hess
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated January 1, 2002

Conservation and Management

Welcome to Birds of the World!

You are currently viewing one of the free accounts available in our complimentary tour of Birds of the World. In this courtesy review, you can access all the life history articles and the multimedia galleries associated with this account.

For complete access to all accounts, a subscription is required.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in

Effects of Human Activity

Shooting And Trapping

Thirty-one of the contiguous 48 states had a Common Moorhen/Purple Gallinule (no distinction made between the species) hunting season in 1992 (Helm 1994). This included all the southern and southeastern states where Purple Gallinules breed, with the exception of Florida. Despite liberal hunting bag limits (70 d, 15 birds/d), harvest of Purple Gallinules is probably very small due to low hunter interest, the secretive nature of the species relative to coots and moorhens, and the fall departure of most individuals before hunting season opens. The closed season in Florida since 1972 (Martin 1979b) is warranted because this is the sole regular wintering area in U.S. Harvest of Purple Gallinules has been proscribed on national wildlife refuges in s. Louisiana.

Some hunters undoubtedly fail to distinguish moorhens and gallinules from coots, much less Purple Gallinules from Common Moorhens. Since 1965, 3 moorhen wings/1,000 coot wings were received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), even though only coot wings were specified in the USFWS Duck Wing Collection Survey. No Purple Gallinule wings received 1965–1975 (Martin 1979b), presumably because so infrequently taken.

Hunted throughout Latin America (Aguirre 1962, ffrench 1991a, Mckay 1981). In Caranhão (ne. Brazil) from Mar forward, hunted heavily and eggs also taken; from Jul on, adults particularly vulnerable, being fat and unable to fly because of simultaneous molt of flight feathers. “Jacana” rice is a most esteemed dish in Brazil and is available Apr–Nov. A closed season has been recommended (Aguirre 1962 in Sick 1993).

A few depredation permits have been issued in Louisiana for shooting Purple Gallinules in rice fields, but nests of this species probably cause in-significant losses with the use of modern harvesting equipment (Helm 1982).

Pesticides And Other Contaminants/Toxins

In a population breeding in 1966 in Louisiana rice fields sown with aldrin-treated seeds, eggs sampled (n = 56 nests) contained on average 6.5 parts per million (ppm) wet weight of the metabolite dieldrin, about 0.4 ppm DDE, and up to 0.2 ppm of heptachlor epoxide. Seeds had been treated with 0.25 lb. aldrin/100 lb. seed. Study did not detect a significant decline in egg production or hatchability. Chick survivability not determined (Causey et al. 1968). Aldrin treatment of rice seeds was canceled in 1969 (Fowler et al. 1971). DDE residues averaged only 0.19 ppm wet weight (maximum 0.95 ppm) in 11 eggs collected in Florida and S. Carolina in 1972–1973; no other organochlorine residues detected; no egg-shell-thinning detected (Klaas et al. 1980).

In Suriname rice fields, individuals killed by aerial spraying (20% endrin; Haverschmidt 1968). In Colombia, population dropped from minimum of 21/ha to 2/ha after spraying with endrin; many appeared to have moved to a nearby rice plot (Mckay 1981).

Collision With Stationary/Moving Structure Or Objects

At television tower, Leon Co., FL, 7 killed 23 Mar–25 May, 2 on 30 Aug 1965 and 7 Sep 1962 (Crawford 1981). Three casualties at tower in Orange Co., FL, 29 Sep–11 Oct (Taylor and Anderson 1973). Nocturnally migrating Purple Gallinules at much higher risk of collision than diurnally migrating ducks and geese. At risk from collision with oil-drilling rigs in Gulf of Mexico, where they are drawn by lights during migration (R. W. Russell pers. comm.).

Degradation Of Habitat

Extensive wetland losses from 1950s to 1970s in Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi (Tiner 1984, Eddleman et al. 1988a), an area corresponding closely with breeding range of Purple Gallinule. This loss offset to some (unknown) degree, however, by human-created habitats: rice fields, national wildlife refuges, and water-conservation impoundments. Helm (Helm 1982) observed that a trend toward rapidly maturing rice varieties, however, may not allow sufficient time for completion of nesting cycle resulting in losses (Helm 1982).

Species may have benefited from introduction of exotic aquatic plants. Water hyacinth and hydrilla, both scourges of inland boaters and fishermen, provide food and habitat for Purple Gallinule (see Habitat, above), and may provide needed isolation for breeding. Lakes on interior Florida ridges, once vegetation-free with sandy shores, now contain diverse aquatic vegetation through eutrophication and invasion (F. Lohrer pers. comm.); these lakes provide major breeding and wintering habitat for this gallinule. The common practice of removing emergent vegetation from ponds to improve fishing and hunting may harm Purple Gallinule reproduction, but only anecdotal data on this.

Disturbance At Nest And Roost Sites; Direct Human/Research Impacts

Though normally secluded within swampy surroundings, Purple Gallinule becomes tame when unmolested; ventures onto banks or beyond them to adjacent meadows and lawns, even entering gardens and picking up food dropped by humans. Lakeside residents in central Florida often feed fish by tossing bread crumbs onto water; Purple Gallinules (especially adult males with young brood) learn to come for the easy food. Become habituated, increasingly bold, jumping up onto the person providing food and even crossing a highway to get their accustomed handout (Slud 1964, Hosford 1967, RLW). Noted chiefly as traffic casualties in nw. Florida (Weston 1965a).


Conservation Status

Informally listed as an endangered breeding species in Arkansas because of habitat restriction as old rice ponds/marshes were returned to agriculture (James 1974).

Measures Proposed And Taken, And Their Effectiveness

A committee of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA) summarized available information on management of North American rallids, including Purple Gallinule (Holliman 1977). The USFWS initiated an Accelerated Research Program for Webless Migratory Shore and Upland Game Birds and funded several Purple Gallinule studies during this program (1967–1982). A second IAFWA summary was published in 1994 (Helm 1995), and a second series of studies of migratory shorebird and upland game-bird studies was initiated.

Conservation, establishment, and management of freshwater wetlands along lower Atlantic and Gulf Coast states are critical, including preservation and management of abandoned rice plantations for wetland species, including Purple Gallinule.

Review of the effects of new rice-cultivation techniques that might have adverse affects on Purple Gallinule (fast-maturing rice may ripen before young Purple Gallinules have fledged) is needed. Wetland preservation and management in wintering grounds south of U.S. Determination of where wintering of the North American population predominates.

Recommended Citation

West, R. L. and G. K. Hess (2020). Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.purgal2.01