Have you ever seen a blue chicken?

Well this year in Suffolk birders and twitchers got very excited as one appeared in Minsmere, and they are pretty sure it was a wild one as it was of the western race, the same as you see here in the Iberian peninsular. purple-swamphenI am talking of course of Purple Swamphen and whilst I like its English nickname ‘Blue Chicken’ I think its Portuguese nickname ‘Galinha-sultana’ is even better – Sultana Chicken.

We have seen them on most visits to the hide at Ludo and Lagoa de São Lourenço but on one visit this year they seem to have taken over the golf course. They were everywhere! I have since learnt from the Aves de Portugal website that they are a conservation success story in Portugal. Twenty years ago they were rare, but in the 199os they had a spectacular recovery in the Algarve and numbers increased dramatically here and also in Alentejo. You can see them elsewhere in Portugal but as their usual habitat in reed beds and wetlands it can be difficult to spot them in the vegetation. However if they do venture out into the open, such as on a golf course they are unmissable!

Many of the guides and websites suggest that for most birders their first ‘observation’ of a Purple Swamphen will be their call. Well we’ve yet to hear their call but fortunately the excellent xeno-canto website has come to my rescue with this recording by Fernand Roussend of their trumpet sound.

As far as I know the one seen in Suffolk has long since gone, but if you are in Portugal and want to enjoy the delight of observing Sultana Chickens then click here to find out the best places to observe. I suspect our golf course moment was unusual so I’ll finish with a more usual sighting of them, which occurred just a few moments after and few yards on.more-usual-sighting

PS There doesn’t seem to be a collective noun for Purple Swamphens . . . . so how about we come up with one. Suggestions I have are A Commotion of Swamphens as they are from the same family as Coots or A Run of Sultana Chickens as that is the group name for chickens or A Sharning of Swamphens as that is the one used for Rails which are also of the same family.

Author: BeckyB

It's a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, reading, blogging, and best of all spending time with family, friends & the cat!

14 thoughts

  1. An enjoyable post – their call is quite the unique noise. I can see how you’d be able to recognize it once you’ve heard it before. I like the photos, especially the one where it looks like the duck is making a getaway from the chickens.

  2. An enjoyable post Becky, thank you. It brought back some good memories of when I used to see (and hear!) this species often while I lived in Spain as we had a resident flock in the local Reserva, but seeing them on the nearby elite golf course would have been brilliant! It’s a shame the common name was changed to Swamp Hen, it lacks the dignity of the old name Purple Gallinule.

    1. I know they deserve such a better name . . . . .I’ve yet to hear them so am envious of your memories. Hopefully one day soon they will share their voice with me and not just pose for the pictures!

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