T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Pukeko (Porphyrio melanotus)

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genera: Porphyrio
Species: porphyrio
Sub Species: melanotus
Scientific name: Porphyrio melanotus
Common name: Pukeko, Swamp hen, Purple swamp hen.

Pukeko are not indigenous to New Zealand, but occur across many South Pacific Islands and in Australia, Southern Asia, Africa and parts of Europe (Spain and Portugal, Central America and Florida. They are classified as a single species, porphyrio with six sub species.
The swamphens which colonised New Zealand probably flew across from Australia a thousand years ago and share the subspecies name melanotus.
In support of the belief that it is a good flyer, and may have self-introduced, a dead Pukeko was found on L'Esperance Rock, a tiny, isolated rock in the Kermadec group, more than 200 km from the nearest established population. This demonstrates the ability of swamphens to fly great distances over the sea. This ability to disperse is not unique to swamphens, but is common to all continental Rallidae; hence they are often found on remote islands. Though New Zealand has the same sub species to Australia they are slightly larger than the Australian neighbours.
Pukeko is an extremely adaptable birds frequent many parts of New Zealand and are often seen on road sides and streams, wetlands, estuaries, short damp pasture. The male are about 50cm in height and weight about 1000 g and the female slightly smaller. They are deep blue with black head and upperparts. Their undertail is white. The bill and shield are scarlet; eyes are red. Their legs and feet areorange-red. Both sexes are alike. They can fly and swim, although not the most graceful bird in flight with legs dangling along behind them, and making loud squawking noises. They can run fast with tail held high. When the Pukeko is threatened it flaps its wings and shows off its powerful beak, they will stand up for their young and protect the nest from hawks and other predators. Pukekos feet are big; they have long toes that are excellent at walking over squishy, muddy ground. They may also use their clawed feet for fighting with Pukeko they don't know or trust.

There is an interesting article by Ian Jamieson on the Pukeko in the New Zealand Geographic magazine Number 21 January March 1994

Call of the pukeko



Two pairs of Pukekos fighting. (Notice they are using their claw feet)

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information     https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/