The purple swamphen can be spotted in ponds at parks on the Fraser Coast.
The purple swamphen can be spotted in ponds at parks on the Fraser Coast. Richard Taylor

Look out for 'purple chickens'

IF YOU see a “purple chicken” crossing the road around Hervey Bay, chances are you’ve spotted a purple swamphen, porphyrio porphyrio.

Spring rains are bringing purple swamphens to Hervey Bay roadsides but they’re not chickens. They are part of the rail family of birds that include crakes, coots and gallinules.

Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife CEO Leonie Gale said the perception that purple swamphens were not too bright was misleading.

“When you see them on the roadside darting backwards and forwards, looking for an opportunity to cross the road they’re not stupid or suicidal – they’re just attracted to food in roadside ditches and drains,” she said.

Ms Gale said NP&W’s Backyard Buddies program was running a Show Off Your Buddies photo competition to help people get more enjoyment from native animals in their backyards.

“You’re likely to find purple swamphens around the edges of freshwater swamps, lakes and creeks surrounded by dense reeds and rushes. Here they can find food, build nests for breeding and find protection from danger.

“You may also stumble upon these birds in Hervey Bay parks with ponds. They are common throughout Australia’s east and north, with an isolated population in the south-west.

“A Purple Swamphen is identified by its distinctive red bill and forehead shield, red eyes and deep blue head and breast. In bright sunlight the plumage shines with an intense blue sheen. Long reddish legs with long slender unwebbed toes help them walk and feed in shallow water. Their white undertail becomes visible as they flick their tail up and down when they walk.”

To enter the competition, with an image of a purple swamphen or any other native animal or plant, visit www.backyardbuddies.net.au, register to upload your photos. The monthly winner receives a prize.

For more information Contact Susanna Bradshaw on 02 9221 1949 or email sbradshaw@fnpw.org.au.



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