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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.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
25.2–28.7 in
64–73 cm
39.8–42.1 in
101–107 cm
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.



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



Apple snails (Pomacea sp.) and freshwater mussels.


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




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.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

There is little information on Limpkin population numbers and trends. The species rates an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan lists it as a species of High Concern, but it is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List. Limpkin were once abundant in Florida, but were 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% per year from 1966 to 1993.


Range Map Help

Limpkin Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

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