Limpkin: Large, unique marsh bird, dark brown body, white streaks on neck, back, wings, breast. Bill is slightly decurved. Neck and legs are long. Vaguely resembles an ibis. Feeds on freshwater snails, mussels, frogs, crustaceans and insects. Direct flight with quick upstrokes and slow downstrokes.
Range and Habitat
Limpkin: Occurs from peninsular Florida and southern Mexico, through the Caribbean and Central America to northern Argentina. In South America it occurs widely east of the Andes; west of them its range extends only to the Equator. Preferred habitats include wooded and brushy freshwater swamps and marshes.
Six bird families, including the secretive rails, stately cranes, and Limpkin are grouped within the taxonomic order GRUIFORMES (pronounced groo-ih-FOR-meez).
The Limpkin of the Americas is the sole member of the family Aramidae (pronounced ar-UH-muh-dee).
The one member of the Aramidae, the Limpkin, is found very locally in North America.
The Limpkin is known for its loud, wailing, haunting vocalizations that echo through the night in Florida swamps. These distinctive calls have been used by Hollywood to represent a variety of monsters and other scary noises in films.
A fairly large bird, the Limpkin resembles a cross between a rail and a heron. Its bill is long and thin but blunt, and it has medium length wings, a long neck, short tail and long legs for wading in the aquatic habitats it prefers.
The limpkin is a dark brown bird, lighter brown on the head, with white streaking on the neck and white spotting on the back and wings. The legs are dark, and the long bill yellowish with a dark tip.
In North America, the Limpkin is restricted to swamps, marshes, and wetlands in Florida. It has a much wider range in the tropical zone south of the border, ranging from the Caribbean and Mexico all the way to northern Argentina.
The sole member of the Aramidae family is a non-migratory permanent resident.
Limpkins do not form flocks, nor do they nest in colonies. Although they will eat other small creatures, these solitary birds are highly dependent upon snails of the genus Pomacea (“apple snails”) as a food source. Active during the light of the day as well as into the dark of night, they forage for apple snails by using their long bills to pick them off of vegetation and out of the water in the various wetland habitats preferred by these snails.
Although Limpkins are widespread and common in suitable habitat in most of their range, they have steadily declined, their range contracting in Florida as wetlands have been drained and modified; a practice that has also affected the Limpkin’s main food source.
The bill of the Limpkin is slightly open at the tip, and slightly curved to the right in some birds to help it extract apple snails from their shells. The Limpkin gets its name from its jerky manner of walking and flying that resembles limping.