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Grey-headed Swamphen

Porphyrio poliocephalus

Regulatory Status

Grey-headed swamphens are not native to Florida and are regulated as Class III wildlife in Florida, meaning a permit is required to possess them for exhibition or sale. A permit is not required to possess them as personal pets.


Grey- headed swamphens are chicken- sized waterfowl with the males averaging 1,050 g (2.3 lbs) and females averaging 850 g (1.9 lbs). They have dark, shiny indigo or purple feathers with red bills and frontal shields. Although plumage color varies regionally, in general their backs and wings are dark green, brown or black with a green sheen and their breasts and heads range from pale blue to grey, which is where they get their common name, "grey-headed." Their tails are short, and they have bright white feathers on the undersides of their tails. Their legs are long, scaly, and orange-red.

Grey- headed swamphens prefer to run or swim but will attempt to fly if necessary. They are poor fliers, their take-offs are difficult and their long legs dangle awkwardly while they are airborne. Their landings are more controlled crashes, and they often try to cushion themselves by falling on a shrub.


Grey- headed swamphens eat vegetable matter and small animal prey. They eat the bulbs of plants, shoots of marsh grasses and reeds. The animal prey usually consists of snails, fish, birds, lizards, and occasionally small waterfowl like swans and ducks.

Native Range

The native range of the Gray-headed swamphen extends from the Middle East through India and southern Asia to northern Thailand.

Florida Distribution

Grey- headed swamphens are established throughout south Florida with the largest populations occurring in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area. See where the species has been reported in Florida.

Potential Impacts

Grey- headed swamphen can create problems through competition with native species and damage to property.