Tuesday, February 13, 2018


I had never seen or heard of a limpkin before my recent trip to Florida. At the Circle B Bar Reserve I spent quite a bit of time watching several limpkins and fell in love with them. 
The limpkin is dark brown with an olive luster above. The head, neck, wing coverts, and much of the back and underparts are marked with white. It has long, dark gray legs and a long neck. It has a long, yellowish, down-curved bill with a dark tip. 

It has wonderful loud vocalizations which were used for jungle effects in Tarzan films and for the hippogriff in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Listen here and here

They eat mostly apple snails. One study in Florida found the contents of one limpkin's stomach to include at least 70% apple snails. When it finds an apple snail it carries it to land or shallow water and places it in mud, facing up. It removes the lid and extracts the snail, rarely breaking the shell. I was watching a limpkin from a dike and had it happen in front of me. It grabbed a snail in the water, walked up the dike to dry ground, placed the snail on the ground and then shook the snail out of the shell, eating the snail in several motions. I was gobsmacked, it was so cool. I wasn't really sure what I was watching until it finished and I found the empty shell when it left. 
Here the limpkin is grabbing the snail out of the shell. 
The discarded shell.
The limpkin (Aramus guarauna) has four subspecies: (a) elucus in Hispaniola and Puerto Rico; (b) dolosus in southern Mexico south to western Panama; (c) pictus in Florida, Cuba and Jamaica; and (d) guarauna in South America. The differences among subspecies relate to size and plumage. I saw Aramus guarauna pictus which is found from the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia down through peninsular Florida, the only place in the U.S. where it is found. 

1 comment:

  1. They kind of sound like wookies from Star Wars. That snail shell looks quite large. You need a post on apple snails, something I've never heard of.