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  • Aditya Singh

Grey-Headed Swamphen


They have red beaks and a red patch in-between their eyes. Their bodies are in shades of blue and purple. They also have a white vent and undertail and very large feet that help to walk over wobbly water plants. On our trip to the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, we learnt that our guides had nicknamed them lovingly as the ‘Lipstick-Bird’.

This bird was earlier known as the Purple Moorhen which, to my mind, was more appropriate. It did more justice to the beauty of this bird. In their breeding season, there is no grey to be seen ( picture above ). To me, its a misnomer.


The one on a tree…

What I saw: They like to live in swamps and reedbeds but may hide behind bushes and hyacinths to stay out of sight of predators. I even once saw them sitting on a tree branch.


At home in the reeds…

They normally look for food in swampy water while flicking their tails up and down. I have seen them eat a wide variety of food – from chewing on a long grass stem to the core of a reed, digging in dry ground and even catching what looked like a fish.


Found something to eat…

During a fight, I saw one taking a stance just like a sumo wrestler to appear bigger but they did not inflict any damage to each other.

Their chicks are black like woolly balls with large feet just like their parents. It takes time for the young ones to develop the bright colour of their beaks and the red shield.


Note the large feet…

They make wonderful parents with both taking care of the chicks. They ensure the well being of their chicks by keeping them well hidden. On a rare occasion, I saw a family out in the open when it was raining and there were no predators around.

I had covered their threats on my earlier post.


Shortly after I wrote my post, we had heavy rains in Bangalore. A lot of rainwater collected in the dugout area, work stopped, nature started to comeback and the digger somehow disappeared. The swamphens have reclaimed their habitat. It may not be exactly the same as before but the new habitat soaked up a lot of rainwater which would have otherwise caused flooding and even the Swamphens are seemingly happy.

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