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Monday, 2 August 2010


A total of 40 Purple Gallinules of unknown origin have been recorded in Britain, with 34 prior to 1913 and the majority in Norfolk.

1863 HAMPSHIRE Rowner, 10 August (Zoologist 1865: 9418; 1867: 829)

1863 COUNTY DURHAM Boldon Flats, August (Hancock 1874, Natural History Transcriptions of Northumberland & Durham)

1864 HAMPSHIRE Redbridge, February (Zoologist 1866: 279; 1877: 295)

1864 STRATHCLYDE Campbeltown, shot, no date (Zoologist 1864: 8961)

1873 NORTHAMPTONSHIRE Near Wellingborough, no date (Zoologist 1877: 252)

1873 NORTHUMBERLAND Near Ponteland, caught, August (Hancock 1874)

1875 SOMERSET Tarnock, near Badgworth, caught, 25 August (Zoologist 1877: 178, 227, 252, 339 & 379; 1879: 127-128)

1876: CUMBRIA Grange-in-Furness, Lancashire, shot, 25 September (Zoologist 1877: 228 & 381; 1887: 195)

1876 NORFOLK Tatterford, killed, 10 October (Zoologist 1877: 253 & 433)

1877 NORFOLK Hickling Broad, 7 September.

1877 NORFOLK Near Barton Broad, 1 November (Zoologist 1879: 458)

1877 PERTHSHIRE Erroll, shot, mid-September (Scottish Naturalist 1877: 37)

1879 NORFOLK Barton Broad, female shot, 23 August (Zoologist 1879: 458)

1881 MORAYSHIRE Clunie Hill, caught, 'summer', skin retained at Forres Museum (Cook 1992, Birds of Moray & Nairn)

1885 NORFOLK Horning, shot, 16 October (Zoologist 1885: 482)

1892 NORFOLK Stoke Ferry, shot, November (Zoologist 1893: 105 & 192)

1892 SUFFOLK Horringer, near Bury St Edmunds, shot, 10 January (Zoologist 1893: 428)

1892 WEST SUSSEX Westbrook, near Horsham, shot, 4 August (Zoologist 1893: 105)

1893 TAYSIDE Loch Leven, shot, 21 August (Field 22 September 1893: 454)

1894 SURREY Bury Hill, Dorking, September (Zoologist 1896: 475)

1896 HAMPSHIRE River Avon, killed, 15 September (Zoologist 1896: 434)

1897 LEICESTERSHIRE Near Uppingham, November (Field 5 March 1898: 358)

1897 NORFOLK Martham Broad, male shot, 23 June, with another shot on 3 July (Zoologist 1898: 111-113)

1897 NORFOLK Barton Broad, 21 July, 3 August & 11 September (Zoologist 1898: 111-113)

1897 SUFFOLK Wickham Market, late December (Field 8 January 1898: 60)

1898 LANCASHIRE Gisbourne Park, Ribbleside, early February (Field 5 February 1898: 180)

1898 NORFOLK Potter Heigham Sound, 14 June, presumed same, Barton Broad, shot, 14 July (Zoologist 1898: 122)

1899 NORFOLK Sutton, 21 October (Field 21 November 1903: 119)

1902 NORFOLK Hickling Broad, shot, 11 October (Zoologist 1903: 135)

1903 NORFOLK Stalham, 1 July (Zoologist 1904: 208)

1908 NORFOLK Horsey Mere, 3 June (Zoologist 1909: 127)

1908 NORFOLK Barton Broad, 7 August (Zoologist 1909: 127)

1913 NORFOLK Barton Broad, 13 October (Riviera, A History of the Birds of Norfolk)

1965 ABERDEENSHIRE Aberdeen, adult of Indian race, found dead, February.

1971 CHESHIRE Field Farm Pool, Sandbach, sub-adult of race porphyrio, 13 August to 26 September,

1978 NORFOLK Cley Marshes NWT, adult, probably of Asiatic race poliocephalus, 20 July to 19 September (presumed escape from Kelling Aviaries)

1978 NOTTINGHAMSHIRE Trentside river bank, Attenborough GP, individual probably of Indian race, 25 August to 14 October.

1998 CUMBRIA Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve, first-winter of indeterminate race, 23-27 October (Rare Birds 4: 41-44; Birding World 10: 463-466; British Birds 93: 442-445)

1998 CAMBRIDGESHIRE River Ouse at Earith, adult of seistanicus/caspius type, 11 July onwards (found to have escaped from Hamerton Wildlife Park, near Sawtry, during damage to an aviary) (Rare Birds 4: 288-289), survived at large on the River Ouse at Fen Drayton until at least 1 April 2006 and subsequently at Needingworth (on River Ouse near Pike and Eel) until 5th November 2006.

2010 CLWYD Saltney, adult female poliocephalus, about 8-31 July (found to be local escape)

Dillon & Ripley (Rails of the World) recognise at least 13 races of Purple Gallinule in the World (see distribution map in Dutch Birding 20: 18, figure 2) whilst George Sangster has recently published a paper suggesting that the Purple Gallinule complex be split into six different species (see Dutch Birding 20: 13-22). These races are as defined below -:

porphyrio: Northern Morocco, extreme NE Algeria, southern Portugal, southern Spain and Sardinia

madagascariensis: The Nile Delta (including Egypt and Israel) and Africa south of the Sahara from Senegal, Nigeria, Uganda and Ethiopia south to the Cape, Pemba Island and Madagascar.

caspius: Shores of the Caspian Sea, NW Iran, NW Syria and central south Turkey

seistanicus: the southern Caspian coast, eastern Iran and adjacent region of Afghanistan'.

poliocephalus: Iraq, SW Iran, Pakistan, the Indian peninsula south to Cape Comorin, Sri Lanka, Assam, Bangladesh, Burma, northern Thailand, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

viridis: From Burma and the Malay Peninsula east through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China

indicus: Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo, Sulawesi and Indonesia

melanopterus: Timor and Key Islands, the Molluccas, Ceram, Aru Islands, Vogelkop and NW Irian eastwards to the island of SE Papua New Guinea

chathamensis: endemic of Chatham Islands

melanotus: Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Kermadec Island

pulverientus: The Phillipines

pelewensis: The Palau Islands

samoensis: Islands of the western Pacific from the Admiralty Islands east of Samoa, Niue and south to New Caledonia, including New Britain, the Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz, New Hebrides and Fiji


The nominate form porphyrio is characterised by being purplish-blue above and on the wings, but brighter on the sides of the head, throat and upper breast.

The race madagascariensis is predominantly pure green on the upperparts with a slight wash of blue on the mantle, scapulars, rump and uppertail coverts. The head and neck are purpluish-blue, as are the wing-coverts.

The Indian form poliocephalus has pale grey lores and hind-crown, sides of head and sometimes throat and neck. The upperparts are purpluish-blue, the upperwings greenish-blue and flanks purple.

The race seistanicus differs from the above in its larger size, more stout bill, larger frontal shield and larger legs and feet. Otherwise the plumage is identical, with greyish head and throat and greenish-blue wings.


Purple Gallinule is fairly scarce in captivity with just 31 birds traced in November 1997 (Roger Wilkinson, Zoo Federation Register), with the largest group concerning ten birds at Letherton, Leeds (West Yorks). Most belong to the Indian form poliocephalus, with the odd madagascariensis also kept. Elsewhere in wider Europe, a further 50 birds was located in zoos.


Evans, L.G.R., January 1998, The Purple Gallinule in Cumbria, Rare Birds 4: 41-43

Evans, L.G.R., September 1998, An escaped Grey-headed Swamp-hen in Cambridgeshire, in Rare Birds 4: 288-289

Sangster, Purple Gallinule Taxonomy, in Dutch Birding 20: 13-22