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Porphyrio alleni (Allen's gallinule, Lesser gallinule) 

[= Porphyrula alleni

Kleinkoningriethaan [Afrikaans]; Edenene (generic term for gallinules and moorhens) [Kwangali]; Nhapata (generic name for coot, gallinule, moorhen, crake or rail) [Shona]; Afrikaans purperhoen [Dutch]; Talève d'Allen [French]; Afrikanisches sultanshuhn [German]; Caimão de Allen [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Gruiformes > Family: Rallidae

Porphyrio alleni (Allen's gallinule, Lesser gallinule)   

Allen's gallinule. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches of sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is locally common in north-eastern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), northern and south-eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, central Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers freshwater marshes and reedbeds, flooded grassland, flood plains and rank grass bordering on large water bodies.

Distribution of Allen's gallinule in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

  • Predators
    • Crocodylus niloticus (Nile crocodile)

Movements and migrations

Complex and not well understood, it is thought to be resident at permanent water bodies, while others migrate to seasonally flooded areas in the period from December-April.


Mainly eats plant matter, supplemented with invertebrates and fish, doing most of its foraging in the early morning and late afternoon, walking on floating vegetation and plucking fruit from low bushes. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • fruit
      • Machaerium lunatum (legume)
    • flowers and seeds
      • reeds
      • sedges
      • water lilies
      • grasses
    • bulbs and stems of water plants
  • Animals
    • invertebrates
      • molluscs
      • crustaceans
      • insects
      • earthworms
      • spiders
    • fish


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, with nests usually spaced far apart.
  • The nest (see image below) is a loosely built cup of reeds, leaves, dry sedges, grass and other aquatic plants, often woven into a clump of reeds, grass or tangled vegetation, effectively concealing it.
Porphyrio alleni (Allen's gallinule, Lesser gallinule)  

Allen's gallinule at its nest, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from December-May, peaking from January-March.
  • It lays 2-8 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 15 days.
  • The chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and fed and cared for by both parents, taking their first flight at approximately 55 days old.


Not threatened, although wetland modification may have negatively affected its population.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.