The purple moorhens of Pallikaranai marshland

In the mornings and evenings, the birds flock to the muddy portions of the swamp to feed and are a sight to behold

October 13, 2014 02:55 am | Updated May 23, 2016 06:57 pm IST

The birds breed in the months of October and November. The reeds and vegetation in the marshland facilitate not just breeding but also help the birds escape from predators — Photo: M. Vedhan

The birds breed in the months of October and November. The reeds and vegetation in the marshland facilitate not just breeding but also help the birds escape from predators — Photo: M. Vedhan

The next time you pass by Thoraippakkam–Pallavaram Radial Road, spare a minute to enjoy the beauty of the purple moorhens happily feeding in the marshlands of Pallikaranai.

The small, purple-coloured bird, with red legs, forehead and bill is a resident breeder at Pallikaranai, say researchers and bird watchers.

For several years, naturalists have observed the moorhen breeding here.

According to V. Shantaram, director, Institute of Bird Studies, Rishi Valley, in the morning and evening hours, moorhens come out of their habitat and feed in the muddy portions of the swamp in flocks. A flock sometimes has up to 20 birds.

K. Gnanaskandan, member of Madras Naturalists’ Society, says in the past few years, a good number of moorhens with their young ones have been sighted at Pallikaranai marshland.

Dr. Shantaram says reduced threat, coupled with availability of plentiful feed, may have led to the birds breeding very well in the marshland.

T. Murugavel of Environment Monitoring and Action Initiating says purple moorhens can swim but they prefer not to. They can be seen moving among the reeds and swamp grasses with ease.

The months of October and November are breeding season for these birds. The reeds and vegetation in the marshland facilitate not just breeding but also help the birds escape from predators.

Two years ago, Mr. Murugavel says he saw an osprey, a fish-eating bird, carrying a purple moorhen from the marshland. In 2013, a pack of dogs that managed to enter the marshland was spotted hunting the moorhens.

In the name of cleaning and dredging, vegetation from Pallikaranai marshland should not be removed as moorhens stay inside the reed beds after dark and breed there, says Mr. Murugavel.

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