Pukeko - Porphyrio porphyrio

Pukeko are also known as swamp hens and are the most common of New Zealand's six species of the rail family. The rail family consists of the takahe, weka, banded rail, spotless crake and marsh crake. Pukekos are found mostly in swamps and in poorly drained pastures throughout New Zealand and Chatham Islands.

Though native to this country subspecies occur in other countries.

When disturbed, pukekos flick their tail flashing the white feathers underneath, seen in the photograph at the bottom of this page. This habit of tail flicking is common to rails. There is no real difference in the appearance of the sexes except that males are slightly larger.

Their diet consists of the soft parts of vegetation, insects, worms, fish and occasionally young birds and birds eggs.

Four to nine buff-coloured eggs blotched with purple are usually laid in untidy ground nests made of local vegetation. When pairs nest close together egg stealing can occur. Sometimes two or three hens may share a nest and under such circumstances over a dozen eggs may be found in one nest.

19th century recipe for pukeko. Boil for 3 days with a pair of old boots. Drain well and remove laces prior to eating.


© images - Steven Reekie