Purple Swamphen_93E5825

At first glance, it looks like a giant, mutant purple gallinule. Upon further review, as they like to say in the NFL, it’s clearly something else, given the red forehead shield, red legs, ground hugging habit — and overly large body. So what is it? The purple swamphen, of course.

If you haven’t heard of this bird, AKA Porphyrio porphyrio, you’re not alone. In the United States, it’s a rare bird, found wild only in Florida — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties, mostly. But it is not native to North America, let alone Florida.

As one theory goes, during the 1990s someone in Pembroke Pines kept the birds as pets and let them roam freely. From there, who knows? A second theory has the birds escaping from their Pembroke Pines owners in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. A third also involves Andrew: the Miami Zoo had purple swamphens, part of its “Wings of Asia” exhibit, eight of which managed to escape during the hurricane.

But it’s not even clear that all the birds are same type — there are 13 subspecies of swamphens, two of which apparently are roaming around Florida. There are swamphens with blue heads, swamphens with gray heads. The grays, P. porphyrio poliocephalus, are a subspecies native to a region that extends from Turkey and the Caspian Sea to Sumatra in Southeast Asia. The blues are a different subspecies altogether.

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Eastern Phoebe_93E5937

The Eastern Phoebe is a plump songbird with a medium-length tail. It appears large-headed for a bird of its size. The head often appears flat on top, but phoebes sometimes raise the feathers up into a peak. Like most small flycatchers, they have short, thin bills used for catching insects.

Eastern Phoebe_93E5937

Eastern Phoebe_93E5901

Despite its plain appearance, this flycatcher is often a favorite among eastern birdwatchers. It is among the earliest of migrants, bringing hope that spring is at hand. Seemingly quite tame, it often nests around buildings and bridges where it is easily observed. Best of all, its gentle tail-wagging habit and soft fee-bee song make the Phoebe easy to identify, unlike many flycatchers.

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Glossy Ibis_93E5857

The glossy ibis is a wading bird in the ibis family Threskiornithidae. The scientific name derives from Ancient Greek plegados and Latin, falcis, both meaning “sickle” and referring to the distinctive shape of the bill.  Glossy ibises feed in very shallow water and nest in freshwater or brackish wetlands with tall dense stands of emergent vegetation such as reeds, papyrus or rushes) and low trees or bushes.

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