Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Purple Gallinule - Porphyrio martinicus
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments The beautiful Purple Gallinule has always been at the northeastern periphery of its breeding range in the southeastern portion of North Carolina. There are numerous nesting records, but most are in the past, and the days of well-known and easily observable birds/pairs, such as at Orton Plantation in Brunswick, are history. However, birds or pairs do appear in the warmer months at isolated places now, though most are on private lands at remote impoundments or ponds. Thankfully, in summer 2019 a pair was found at a public site -- Mackay Island NWR -- and breeding was confirmed, with four chicks seen with the adults. Why the species seems to have declined is unclear, as marsh/pond habitat is very common, and with global warming and increasing beaver populations, one would expect an increase in breeding activity over the past few decades. The species has an odd proclivity of straying anywhere and practically any time, even appearing far out of normal habitat, such as in downtown areas. Normal habitat, for breeding, is well-vegetated freshwater ponds or impoundments, always with floating vegetation such as lily pads, as the birds feed by walking on the pads, or in marshy vegetation (as opposed to swimming).
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status SR
U.S. Status
State Rank S1B
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Sparse and irregular visitor, and former (to possibly current) breeding summer resident; casual to very rare in winter, as well as far inland at any season. Still reported almost annually, mainly in the southern portion of the province, and usually near the coast. Accidentally bred at Mackay Island NWR (Currituck) in summer 2019, a first documented breeding record in the state in a few decades, and likely the first nesting ever for the northern half of the coastal region. Has nested regularly as far north as Lake Ellis Simon (Craven) and White Oak River impoundment (Onslow), and might still breed at these places. Former and sporadic nesting as far inland as Southern Pines. Most breeders probably were in the Brunswick/New Hanover area, especially (formerly) at Orton Plantation. Mostly mid-Apr to late Sep, but a few in Dec and Jan. Peak counts: 6 (2 adults and 4 chicks), Mackay Island NWR, 19 Jul 2019; 3 adults, on several occasions.
Piedmont Stray (about 10 records). Casual in migration; mainly May-Jun. Two other records: 1, Camp Graystone (Guilford), 1 Jul 1943; and 1, Raleigh, 11 Aug 1967.
Mountains Accidental stray (three records): 1 found in emaciated condition, Hazelwood (Haywood), 18 Apr 1980; 1, Mills River (Henderson), 14-17 May 1999; and 1 photographed, Lake Junaluska (Haywood), 22 Apr 2018.
Finding Tips Formerly, one could see the Purple Gallinule from the causeway at Orton Plantation. However, the vegetation there is now badly overgrown, and the gallinules are very rarely reported there anymore. Sadly, your best chance of seeing one now is to make a chase, after one is reported.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-09], LeGrand[2022-09-12], LeGrand[2021-08-04]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.