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Limpkin

Aramus guarauna ORDER: GRUIFORMES FAMILY: ARAMIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

An unusual bird of southern swamps and marshes, the Limpkin reaches the northern limits of its breeding range in Florida. There, it feeds almost exclusively on apple snails, which it extracts from their shells with its long bill. Its screaming cry is unmistakable and evocative.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
25.2–28.7 in
64–73 cm
Wingspan
39.8–42.1 in
101–107 cm
Weight
31.7–45.9 oz
900–1300 g
Other Names
  • Courlan brun (French)
  • Carreo (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Limpkin's bill is uniquely adapted to foraging on apple snails. The closed bill has a gap just before the tip that makes the bill act like tweezers. The tip itself is often curved slightly to the right so it can be slipped into the right-handed chamber of the snail.
  • The Limpkin is the only member of its taxonomic family. Although it resembles herons and ibises in general form, the Limpkin is generally considered to be more closely related to rails and cranes.
  • In the 1800s, European settlers noted that the Limpkin was so tame that it could sometimes be caught on the nest.

Habitat


Marsh

Open freshwater marshes, swamp forests, and shores of rivers, lakes, and ponds.

Food


Insects

Apple snails (Pomacea sp.) and freshwater mussels.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–8 eggs
Egg Description
Variable. Light grayish white or deep olive with brownish or purplish gray streaks and blotches.
Condition at Hatching
Covered with down and able to swim, walk, and run.
Nest Description

A platform of sticks, vines, leaves, moss, grass, and other types of vegetation, built in any of a variety of sites, from the surface of floating vegetation to tree limbs 40 feet above the ground.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Probing

Territorial males engage in aggressive, ritualistic confrontations that include charging, retreating, and loud calling. Searches visually for snails in clear water, or by jabbing or sweeping with bill. Turns the snail shell opening upward, cuts through the muscle attachment, and pulls out the snail. Extraction takes about 10 to 20 seconds; the shell is rarely broken.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Once abundant in Florida, the Limpkin was almost eradicated by humans hunting for food. Conversion of wetlands for agriculture, flood control, and development have further contributed to the species' decline in Florida, estimated at about 9.1 percent per year from 1966 to 1993.

Credits

  • Bryan, D. C. 2002. Limpkin (Aramus guarauna). In The Birds of North America, No. 627 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

Limpkin Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings