The largest of our rails, and distinguished by its blue colour not only from them, but from all our other waterfowl, the porphyrio is a bird which immediately attracts attention by its great beauty, the azure, cobalt, and sea-green plumage being finely set off by the scarlet bill, forehead and legs, and the white under the tail. Some specimens have grey heads, but the presence or absence of this hoary colouring is individual. The bird is often called purple moorhen or coot, but differs from both in several points besides size and colour, notably in the great thickness of the beak, with which it can give a very severe bite, and in the curious habit, so remarkable in a waterfowl, of using its foot to hold its food, chiefly vegetable—like a parrot. Although always found near water, it does not swim much, and has the true rail love for cover; it perches freely and climbs well among the reeds.
It is found all over our Empire, and of late years has even been recorded as far west as the Caspian ; it is resident, and nests during the rains; the eggs are about the same size as the coot's, but richer in colour, having a reddish tinge both in ground-colour and spots. The other Hindustani names of this favourite bird, which is not usually shot, though many specimens are sent to Europe alive, are all apparently variants of that given above— Khima, Kharim, and Kalim; in Ceylon the names are Indula, Kukula, Sannary, and Kittala.