Purple gallinule: gaudiest of the southern slough

LITTLE ROCK, Ar (AGFC) - Sporting disproportionately long toes, a bill resembling a piece of candy corn and gaudy green and royal-blue plumage, the Purple Gallinule looks like a displaced Mardi Gras partier in its Arkansas wetland habitat.

Despite its carnival-appropriate appearance, the Purple Gallinule's features - at least some of them - serve a legitimate purpose. Its extensive toes evenly distribute the bird's weight across the flimsy lily pads it walks upon, otherwise the gallinule would sink. In fact, the gallinule's flexible feet coupled with its light weight let it become a trapeze artist of sorts, balancing on rickety limbs and climbing trees up to 65 feet tall. Its chicken-like bill enables it to eat a diet of fruits, seeds, flowers, grains and invertebrates. The bird's shimmering coloration serves no purpose in the game of love, as both sexes showcase the same vivid hues.

You don't have to actively seek this peculiar bird to find it. You may spy one ambling across lily pads or crawling in shrubby areas as you're admiring alligators in a southern Arkansas slough or fishing in thick vegetation. The Purple Gallinule can be ound in marshes in the southern and east-central portions of the state from April through September.

According to Dr. Dan Scheiman, bird conservation director of Audubon Arkansas, reliable places to view Purple Gallinules between May and August include Bois d'Arc Wildlife Management Area, Okay Landing at Millwood Lake and Arkansas Post National Memorial.