Lost in the recent furor over the fearsome exotic Burmese python is another invasive species that has spread quietly over the past 14 years from the man-made marshes of Broward County to Lake Okeechobee and beyond. Neither ugly nor dangerous to humans, it nevertheless poses a significant threat to South Florida's fragile wetlands ecosystem.
But there is good news: This particular invader is edible -- and tastes just like chicken.
Meet the purple swamphen, porphyrio porphyrio, an eye-catching violet-hued bird with a red bill and cream-colored feet that is easily confused with the purple gallinule, a pint-size native bird found throughout South Florida's wetlands.
Native to Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific islands, the chicken-sized swamphens got here the same way just about every other exotic species did -- by people bringing them here and setting them free. And like most exotics, they are quite capable of out-competing native birds for food and shelter.
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