Tag Archives: Gallinula alba (White)

Porphyrio albus (White)

Lord Howe Swamphen (Porphyrio albus)

The Lord Howe Swamphen was described in 1790, it was endemic to Lord Howe Island, Australia.

The species was larger than the Australian Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus (Temminck)), which inhabits Lord Howe Island today, it was furthermore adapted to a terrestrial lifestyle, had shorter toes, was completely flightless – and, the most conspicuous character, was for a long time thought to have had a completely white plumage.

This last assumption is now known to be untrue, the birds started their lifes as black-plimaged chicks, then turned into semiadult, blue-colored birds (the birds were completely blue, darker on the upperside than on the underside, with a rather darkish, almost black head), then later turning into complete white when growing older. 

This also explains the contemporary accounts who report of blue-, blue and white- as well as completely white birds to be found on Lord Howe Island. [1]


The Lord Howe Swamphen disappeared shortly after its discovery, most likely due to direkt hunting by sailors of whaling ships and other ships during stays on the island for the purpose of filling up their ship’s proviant.

Today only two specimens of this beautiful and interesting species exist, one, which is kept in Vienna, Austria, is a fully adult bird and even has claws on the edges of its wings. [1]



[1] Heinvan Grouw; Julian P. Hume: The history and morphology of Lord Howe Gallinule or Swamphen Porphyrio albus (Rallidae). Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 136(3): 172-198. 2016


Depiction from: ‘Lionel Walter Rothschild: Extinct birds: an attempt to unite in one volume a short account of those birds which have become extinct in historical times: that is, within the last six or seven hundred years: to which are added a few which still exist, but are on the verge of extinction. London: Hutchinson & Co. 1907’

(public domain)


edited: 18.05.2019