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Gray-headed Swamphen

Silhouette RailsRails
Gray-headed SwamphenPorphyrio poliocephalus
  • ORDER: Gruiformes
  • FAMILY: Rallidae

Basic Description

Looking like an oversized version of a Purple Gallinule with a massive red bill, the Gray-headed Swamphen is an impressive bird and the largest rail in North America. Originally from southern Asia, it became established in southern Florida in the mid-1990s when birds escaped from captivity and began breeding. Like gallinules, this species forages in marshes by wading, swimming, and even climbing to reach aquatic vegetation, insects, and animal prey. Swamphens are aggressive competitors and may dominate or displace our native North American rails.

More ID Info
image of range map for Gray-headed Swamphen
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Finding a Gray-headed Swamphen is relatively easy in southern Florida, as the species is brightly colored, large, and often forages in the open in predictable locations, including urban areas. Look for them in stormwater treatment, water conservation, and agricultural areas where wetlands and other low-lying sites have been altered.

Other Names

  • Calamón Cabecigrís (Spanish)
  • Talève à tête grise (French)
  • Cool Facts