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Purple Gallinule

Adult male Purple Gallinule shows up in New England with a broken leg! (photo by Geoff Dennis)There are three photos on this page of an uncommon (and brightly colored!) visitor to New England, a Purple Gallinule. A resident of southern states such as Florida, the Purple Gallinule does not usually travel north beyond Delaware, even in summer. Nevertheless, this adult male was found in Massachusetts in 1998 and brought to us with a broken right femur (thigh).

A shy, secretive marsh bird related to Rails and Coots, the Gallinule has long legs used for wading and extended toes for walking on lily pads. These birds depend on their legs as well as their wings, so without our help, this adult male Purple Gallinule probably would have perished.

The first photo here (above right) is a picture of the injured bird, showing the broken right leg being held askew. In this front view, he is still somewhat wary despite his weakened condition. (Photo by Geoff Dennis.)

The second photo (below left) is a side view of the debilitated Gallinule, before he was brought to us. The right leg is completely useless. Note the long toes. (Photo by Geoff Dennis.)Adult male Purple Gallinule, side view showing the broken leg. (photo by Geoff Dennis)

Once the bird was brought to us, he was housed indoors in a special cage in order to reduce the stress level on this specimen of a highly timid and nervous species. Veterinarian Chris Walker, DVM, donated his surgical services and skillfully placed a metal rod (or "pin") in the bird's leg. This allowed the bone to heal perfectly. The pin was later removed during a second surgery.

Surprisingly, as we found out the hard way, Purple Gallinules have a very special feature. These birds have a spur on the "wrist" portion of each wing which may be used for both climbing and defense. These spurs are sharp as cats' claws, and our patient was not bashful about using these spurs to scratch us once he was feeling better.

Below is a close-up of the healed and healthy Gallinule in an outside enclosure, just before release. You can see here how he was able to use both legs properly again. (Photo by Walter S. Bezaniuk.)

Close-up, healed Purple Gallinule in captivity.

And as we pull back to show you the whole photo, you can see that our guest is fully alert. Note the wary posture! This is a very satisfying contrast to the way the bird appears in his first photos.

Adult Purple Gallinule, broken leg has healed, ready for release.

After five weeks in captivity, we released the Purple Gallinule. His health restored and wildness intact, he took off like a rocket, just a blue blur, and then disappeared into the marsh -- all in all, a happy ending to this unusual tale.

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This website and all its contents belong to The Place for Wild Birds, Inc.
Copyright © 2002, all rights reserved. Reproduce only with permission.
Photographs by Walter S. Bezaniuk, except where indicated. Most illustrations by Kathleen Frisbie.
Site design and some illustrations by Sara.