On the evening of April 2, a Waynesboro resident called the Wildlife Center. He had a “crazy bird” in his backyard by a small stream – and it was being stalked by a cat. Wildlife rehabilitation intern Kelsey and new intern Jordan went to investigate on their way home.
Kelsey and Jordan found that the bird was a Purple Gallinule – an very unusual bird for this area. Kelsey and Jordan attempted to catch the bird, but it quickly darted across the stream. Kelsey and Jordan persisted in their capture attempts, and waded across the stream, where they were able to capture the bird with a net.
Dr. Rich Sim, the Center’s veterinary fellow, examined the Purple Gallinule when it arrived at the Center. The bird was bright and alert. Dr. Rich found a small puncture wound on the bird’s left leg. Because a cat was known to be stalking the bird, Dr. Rich treated the wound as if it were a cat attack, and started the gallinule on a short course of antibiotics.
Purple Gallinules are tropical marsh birds, which typically do not venture into Virginia. Their primary year-round range is in Central and South America; the gallinules can also be found in the southern United States during breeding season. They have long toes which help the bird walk in floating vegetation without sinking. Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds notes that the Purple Gallinule “swims on surface of water like a duck and walks on floating plants rather like a chicken.” These colorful birds have dark purple heads, green feathers on their back, red bills, light blue foreheads, and yellow legs.
These omnivorous birds can be challenging to care for in captivity, though the Wildlife Center staff anticipate that the bird should be able to be released soon.