Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinica


Purple Gallinule is a large rail (33 cm length) that inhabits swamps, marshes, ponds, and lakes from the southeastern United States to the northern portions of Chile and Argentina. Unlike the various coots (Fulica spp.) and Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) with which it occurs, this species possesses long, slender toes. This anatomical characteristic permits it to walk on floating vegetation such as water lilies, water lettuce, and water hyacinth, or climb into tall reeds, cattails, or shrubs found at the water’s edge. Colors change as the bird is iridescent; generally, the head, neck, and breast of the adult is brilliant purple, the central part of the body is rich blue, and the posterior is blue-green. The undertail coverts are white, the legs and feet yellow, and the bill and naked frontal shield are tricolored with yellow, red, and blue. The immature plumage is actually quite distinctive: tan on the head, neck, and breast and olive brown toward the rear. The long toes aid with identification. Breeders at their northern limits (e.g., Texas and Louisiana) are migratory but most populations are sedentary.

Help complete this species

There are many ways to contribute—we need species information, photographs, audio, video, translations, maps, distribution data, and bird sightings. There's a role for everyone!

Learn more


© Arthur A. Allen

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: