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the web of life in southern Africa

Porphyrio martinicus (American purple gallinule) 

[= Porphyrula martinica

Amerikaanse Koningriethaan [Afrikaans]; [Zulu]; Edenene (generic term for gallinules and moorhens) [Kwangali]; Amerikaans purperhoen [Dutch]; Talève violacée [French]; Amerikanisches sultanshuhn [German]; Caimão-americano [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 martinicus (American purple gallinule)   

American purple gallinule, Florida, USA. [photo Connie Shackleford ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs in the Americas, from southern USA to northern Argentina. It is a vagrant to southern Africa, with records along the southern coast of South Africa, with three sightings in coastal and north-eastern Namibia. It generally prefers wetlands, such as grassy marshes, swamps, flooded fields, emergent vegetation around lagoons, river mouths and sluggish rivers and streams, although vagrants are often found in atypical habitats such as urban areas.

Movements and migrations

Southern African records are in the period from March-August, mainly April-July, suggesting that they are birds travelling north from South America which strayed from their usual path to North America.


Mainly eats plant matter, supplemented with invertebrates, small frogs, fish and bird eggs and nestlings, doing most of its foraging by walking over and grabbing plants and animals off floating vegetation. It may also dive for food or clamber around bushes and trees to grab fruit and other food items. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plant matter
    • pondweeds
    • sedges
    • fruit and seeds of water lilies
    • seeds of grasses and cultivated crops (such as rice)
  • Invertebrates
  • Vertebrates


  • 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.