The Sultana Bird

The Purple Swamphen is known as the Sultana Bird because of its French name – talève sultane, its Portuguese name is Caimão-comum. If I had known that the Purple Swamphen was also called the Sultana Bird, I think I would have been even more determined to see it!


DSCN8820It was one of the birds I was keen to observe when we first decided on a birdwatching trip to the Algarve. We didn’t get to see it on our first visit but we have been lucky enough to observe them on subsequent visits from the main hide on the Ludo and Lagoa de São Lourenço walk.

DSCN8801The diet of this chicken-size bird consists predominantly of plant matter including shoots, leaves, roots, stems, and flowers, and on the days we saw them they were thoroughly enjoying the roots of the reeds. They use their long toes to lift the roots to their bill. Portugal 808In preparing this post I did a little bit of research, and came across a couple of articles which said the Swamphen always uses their right foot to eat from. I didn’t know this fact at the time of observing them, and so I had to look at my photographs to see if this was true. The first couple of photographs I looked at suggested it was.  However as I delved deeper into my photo album I came across quite a few others where it look as though the left foot was being used. So either I had found Swamphens who were unusual in being ambidextrous or this fact is a myth!

Portugal 818

DSCN8793DSCN1658In some light the purple-blue feathers look almost silky, and its bright red bill, mandible and eyes make it unforgettable. I was so excited when we first saw it!  It is a beautiful bird and watching it find and eat the roots was memorising.  The Romans also thought it was a beautiful bird as there is evidence they kept them as decorative birds on the grand estates.  DSCN8803If you have not yet seen one and are in the East Algarve then I certainly recommend spending a while in the hide at Ludo and Lagoa de São Lourenço. To find out more on this hide and others download the excellent Algarve Birdwatching Guide. Copies are also available from most Tourist Information offices in the Algarve.

Portugal 810As well as the Purple Swamphen I had a few other wildlife must sees on our first trip to the Algarve – Flamingoes, the Chameleon and the Portuguese Water Dog. You may recall from my Flamingoes post last year I have been lucky enough to see them on every visit, and since that first trip of only spotting one we have seen flocks upon flocks. I never get bored of them, so expect another post one day! Unfortunately the Chameleon eludes us despite a search earlier this year. The Portuguese Water Dog also remains on the list, but hopefully one day we will see one. For now though I just have to be content with pictures of Bo and Sunny, the Obama’s Water Dogs!

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

27 thoughts

  1. Our version of that bird, in New Zealand, is the pukeko. Unfortunately, they breed like rabbits here and are predatory, forcing our native birds out of their habitats. Even more unfortunately, they resemble our highly endangered takahe (less than 200 birds alive) and a couple of weeks ago, 4 takahe were shot during a pukeko cull. This was big news on television, radio and all media. So many NZ native birds have become extinct that it seemed the entire population was aghast that anyone could shoot a takahe, instead of a pukeko! The cullers had been told to only shoot birds in flight – takahe are flightless, while pukekos can fly, though not very well.

    1. Made the news over here. Jaw dropping that so called professionals or at least experienced amateurs could do this. Dreadful. 🙁 Really hope the Takahe numbers recover.

    1. Hi thanks Georgina. Hope all is going well with you, and also all the wildlife that seems to go out of its way to cross your path or hide in a box!

    1. It is wonderful isn’t it . .on one of the days we were in the hide they were everywhere but a month or so later didn’t see one!

        1. I actually just wrote a post on it, registration closes tomorrow & the actual counting is on Sept 4-6. It’s the second year of the event and my first time doing it 🙂

    1. Thank you so much . . . the hide made all the difference in taking the photographs as I had plenty of time to observe as well as take the shots.

    1. Thank you . . . ooh where? I don’t know Sydney that well but did manage a few walks around the bay/harbour – so beautiful.

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