I had heard of the gray headed swamphen that you could find down in south Florida but hadn’t heard until recently that they are moving into central Florida. This bird originates from southeast Asia. The audubon thinks that many escaped captivity from a zoo during Hurricane Andrew years ago. It looks a lot like the purple gallinule but has an all red nose and his legs are pink vs. the yellow legs on a purple gallinule. Two had been seen at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive so I headed over in late December. The pair were easily seen right at the beginning of the drive. I pulled over and jumped out the car and walked over and spent a while watching them. It felt freezing this morning. I had a warm hoody on with sweats but had not brought my gloves since I didn’t think it would be that cold. I finally got back in the car and the temp read 39 degrees on my car. It had gotten colder since driving up from Tampa. What was I thinking?? Not prepared for this cold morning.
I managed to catch one of the swamphens catching a tiny fish. He walked over to the vegetation and ate his breakfast there.
He kept cruising back to the water, running off any other birds in his way including a grackle and a coot.
It was interesting to watch him pull up the vegetation with his foot and then use his foot to eat it. He used both feet to do this. I’m assuming he’s eating the seed pods in the water. The couple were busy feeding for a while. They eventually ventured farther in the reeds and disappeared after an hour of feeding.
The morning did warm up and I was able to get out along the drive to enjoy the beautiful morning out. Just like the comical purple gallinules, the swamphen was fun to watch.
Swamphen on the left and a purple gallinule on the right. Subtle differences are the all red beak (the purple has a light blue spot on his head) and the legs are different colors.