Looking like something between a crane and a rail, this odd wading bird has no close relatives. It is widespread in the American tropics, but enters our area only in Florida, where it can satisfy its dietary requirement for a certain freshwater snail.
Mostly solitary, Limpkins may be overlooked as they stalk about in marshes and swamps, but they certainly draw attention with their piercing banshee wails, often heard at dawn or at night. Its cry is a piercing, repeated wail, kree-ow, kra-ow, etc., etc., especially at night and on cloudy days.
A large spotted swamp wader, it stands about 28 inches tall. The Limpkin is found in open freshwater marshes, along the shores of ponds and lakes, and in wooded swamps along rivers and near springs. Limpkin’s favorite food is large apple snails (genus Pomacea). In Florida, it also eats other kinds of snails and mussels; sometimes insects, crustaceans, worms, frogs, lizards. The Limpkin forages by walking in shallow water, searching for snails visually, also by probing in mud and among vegetation.The tip of the bill usually curves slightly to the right, which may help in removing snaisl from their curved shell. Its bill also usually has a slight gap just behind the tips of the mandibles, which may help in carrying and manipulating snails.
limpkin Limpkin breeding habits aren’t well known. The site for their nest varies; it may be on the ground near water, in marsh grass just above water, or in shrubs or trees above or near water, up to 20′ high or sometimes much higher. The nest is a platform of reeds and grass, lined with finer plant material. There are usually 4-8 eggs colored olive to buff, and blotched with brown and gray. Incubation is by both sexes, but incubation period not well known. Downy young leave the nest within a day after hatching and follow one or both parents. It’s probable that both parents feed the young. Development of young and age at first flight are not well known.
Limpkin were hunted almost to extinction in Florida by the beginning of the 20th century, but with legal protection is making a fair comeback.