Porphyrio melanotus Temminck, 1820
New Zealand status: Native
Conservation status: Not Threatened
Other names: pūkeko, purple swamphen, purple gallinule, south-west Pacific swamphen, pook.
Length: 38 – 50 cm
Weight: 1090 g (male); 880 g (female)
Nest type: floating platform, ground-level hollow.
Egg colour: Light brown with dark brown or grey spots and blotches.
Incubation length (mean): 25 days.
The pukeko is a large, conspicious rail found throughout New Zealand. The head, breast and throat are deep blue/violet, the back and wings are black, and the under-tail coverts are conspicuously white. The conical bright red bill is connected to a similarly coloured ‘frontal shield’ ornament covering the forehead, the eyes are also red. The legs and feet are orange, with long, slim toes. Females are smaller than males, but similarly coloured. Juveniles are similar to adults but duller, with black eyes and black bill and shield that turn to red around 3 months of age.
Pukeko are found throughout New Zealand, although less common in drier regions. They are typically found near sheltered fresh or brackish water (e.g. vegetated swamps, streams or lagoons), especially adjacent to open grassy areas and pastures. Pukeko are regularly seen near roadside and drainage ditches and along the margins of scrub or forested areas, from sea level up to 2300 m. Pukeko are resident on Chatham and Pitt Islands (though scarce there in the presence of dense weka populations) and on Raoul Island in the Kermadec Islands. They have been recorded as vagrants on L’Esperance Rock (Kermadec Islands, September 1988) and Campbell Island (January 1947).
Pukeko are commonly seen foraging in paddocks and along roadsides. When disturbed, they prefer to run or hide rather than fly, but once airborne, they are capable fliers and can fly long distances (e.g. to offshore islands). Despite not having webbed feet, they are also strong swimmers. Pukeko are territorial, and aggressive interactions between birds from neighbouring groups are common. Such territorial interactions are noisy affairs and often involve several birds from each group. Aggressive interactions typically begin with ritualised posturing that emphasises the bird’s size and also display the frontal shield ornament. Occasionally, aggressive interactions escalate to full on fights where individuals bite and kick one another. Territorial defence is typically performed by males. Adult pukeko have few natural predators. Juvenile birds are often targeted by swamp harriers, but adult birds will fight vigorously to defend their offspring. Pukeko have been observed attacking cats and stoats.
Text from: New Zealand Birds Online
This artwork is under a creative commons licence.
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By Kath Halkett on 2014-04-30 00:45:46