Purple Gallinule #14-0204

April 2, 2014
April 7, 2014
Rescue Location
Waynesboro, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Cat Attack
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

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.

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Patient Updates

On April 5, the Purple Gallinule received its last dose of antibiotics and the veterinary staff cleared the bird for release. The following day, two wildlife rehabilitators transported the Gallinule to the Tidewater area for release. Due to a number of storms in the area, rehabbers Dana and Linda kept the bird overnight and released it on Monday, April 7 at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Here is a video from Dana and Linda:


Purple Gallinule #14-0204 was moved to the Center’s aviary yesterday, since this quiet area should be less stressful for the delicate patient. The staff is offering a variety of food items to the marsh bird, and so far, the gallinule is eating a variety of insects. The gallinule will receive another dose of antibiotics on April 5, and if all goes well, the staff will start planning for release.

Dr. Dave contacted Steve Living with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, to ask his opinion on release locations. While the gallinule was apparently doing fine in Waynesboro prior to the cat attack, Dr. Dave suspected that the tidewater area might be a better option for release, given that ornithological records indicate that the species is occasionally spotted in that area. Steve suggested that the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge would be a suitable release location.

Photos courtesy of Treatment Team volunteer Jackie: