Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinica

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


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Habitat in Breeding Range

Primarily marshes containing fresh water, up to 5 parts per thousand salt (Helm 1994). Deep water marshes (0.25–1 m depth), and shallow edges of lakes, and impoundments (primarily coastal, but also inland), with stable water levels and dense stands of floating vegetation that provide excellent habitat for nesting (Helm 1994). Preferred breeding habitats also include a large amount of edge created by interspersion of open water areas and robust emergents such as water lilies (Nymphaeaceae; e.g., water shield [Brasenia schreberi], American lotus [Nelumbo lutea], spatterdock [Nuphar sp.], fragrant and yellow water lily [Nymphaea sp.], pickerel weed [Pontederia sp.], arrowhead [Sagittaria sp.], water pennywort [Hydrocotyle umbellata]); sedges, grasses, and rushes (e.g., cattail [Typha sp.], maidencane [Panicum hemitomon], bulrush [Scirpus sp.], giant cutgrass [Zizaniopsis miliacea], and juncus [Juncus sp.]; floating and submerged vegetation (e.g., water lettuce [Pistia stratiotes], duckweed [Lemna sp.], water hyacinth [Eichhornia crassipes], pondweeds [Potamogeton sp.], coontail [Ceratophyllum demersum], and hydrilla; and ditch plants (e.g., buttonbush [Cephalanthus occidentalis]; Trautman and Glines 1964, Sprunt 1970, Oberholser 1974, Helm 1982). Uses closed habitat (<25% open water) significantly more than open habitat (50–75% open water) during Jun nesting season in central Florida (Mulholland 1983).

Essentials appear to be a structure that includes places to walk and feed over water, plentiful vegetable food such as flowers, some tall cover for nesting, some open water, and a healthy system containing invertebrate food. Some wetlands used are predominantly lily pads and floating vegetation; others primarily emergent cattail, sedges, and grasses. Rice fields a preferred habitat as soon as rice is tall enough to provide cover or to begin ripening (Mckay 1981, Helm 1982). See also Breeding: nest site, below.

Habitat in Nonbreeding Range

Habitat in Migration

Appears in higher-altitude wetlands during movements, up to 3,020 m in e. Andes of Colombia and to 4,080 m in Junin, Peru (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). Vagrants appear in unusual urban habitats, such as lawns and industrial sites. Trans-Gulf spring migrants frequent first marshes encountered on barrier islands until they regain their strength (Kale et al. 1992, Georgia BBA 19942001 unpubl.).

Habitat in Overwintering Range

Generally similar to breeding habitat, except that movement is necessary to warmer and wetter climates as brought on by seasonal changes and by drying of wet areas and harvesting of rice fields. More tolerant of open situations (50–75% open water as compared to 25% water) when not breeding (Mulholland 1983).

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