This rainbow-colored bird builds nests that float

July 7, 2014, 1 p.m.
purple bird

Photo: Bill Bouton/MNN Flickr Group

American purple gallinule brings flashes of color to marshlands

This brightly colored bird is also known as a swamp hen, both because it is about the size of a chicken and because its strutting, head-jerking movements look much like that of a hen roaming around a coop looking for things to peck. Even so, though the more exotic sounding purple gallinule seems more fitting considering the species' extraordinary coloring. A purple gallinule manages its marshy habitat by using its enormous yellow feet to distribute its weight and keep from sinking as it walks across lily pads and dense water vegetation. You can spot these birds tromping across lily pads from the Florida everglades down to the northeastern parts of South America. Purple gallinules are so confident about their ability to stay on the water's surface that they nests that float. It is a smart strategy for staying out of reach of most predators, which now includes pythons, an introduced species. 

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.