Limpkins: Florida’s Banshee Bird

An Aramus guarauna, or limpkin, is a brown and white crying bird, similar to a crane or rail, that lives in warm wetlands from northern Argentina in South America all the way up to Florida in the United States.

Limpkins are relatively large birds, weighing up to three pounds with a wingspan of up to forty inches. As birds go, they’re tall and long-legged. They live in marshes and swampy forests.

The body is dark brown marked with white. The bill is heavy and yellow. Limpkins use their bill to break apart shells.

They love apple snails, and their bills have helped them become specialists at prying open the shells.

Limpkins are named after their limping style of walk. They’re known for their wailing cry. The call is most commonly heard at night, dawn, and dusk.

These birds are common bird in Florida, where it feeds mainly on mollusks. Limpkins are particularly fond of apple snails.


Why Do Limpkins Scream All Night?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has researched the wild, wailing call of the limpkin Aramus guarana for many years.

Male limpkins have particularly long necks, giving them especially long windpipes. These long tracheae allow them to make loud, high-pitched screeches and cries.

Limpkins use their vocal ability during courtship, as well as an alert when they spot a predator.

The wetlands where most limpkins live are filled with alligators, snakes, predatory birds, and panthers, all ready-and-willing to snap up an unsuspecting limpkin.

During courtship, a male limpkin will produce long, loud, rattling calls, while a female will return the advances with softer, lower calls.

A courtship chorus can be eery, particularly late at night out on the water, and a limpkin song can be chilling.


What Does A Limpkin Sound Like?

Like many bird species, limpkins have a very distinctive cry. It’s common to hear the call of this particular bird around dusk and dawn in the wetlands of Florida, even if you don’t actually see the bird.

Some people at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology describe the Florida bird as a banshee because of its wailing scream.

Often given at night, it’s often found to sound like a “kweee” sound. Other calls include clicking and clucking noises.

The calls limpkins make depends on what situation the bird has found itself. Birds tend to shriek in alarm, whereas they coo or cluck during feeding or mating rituals.


What Do Limpkin Birds Eat?

Limpkins, like many bird species in Florida, love eating apple snails, as well as any other mollusk they can find. They use their long bill to pry open the shells before eating them.

Apple snails can grow to the size of about a golf ball and provide plenty of protein and rich oils and fats for the limpkins.

The limpkin Aramus guarauna and the Ampullariidae (apple snails) will be forever enemies in the wetlands of Florida.

Limpkins also eat frogs, lizards, worms, insects, and crustaceans.

Wetlands are often rich in biodiversity with numerous species, allowing for such specialist birds as limpkins to search for and find enough food to survive, thrive, and pass on their genes to future generations.


Where To Limpkins Live?

This particular species of wading bird lives in the freshwater marshes of Florida. Typically, they live in freshwater marshes, lakeshores, and swamp forests.

Limpkins tend to move about their environment by walking across floating rafts of vegetation, on the search for food, or by walking through the low foliage and tree branches.

When limpkins fly around the wetlands of Florida, they fly with shallow, snappy wingbeats. It flies with its head and neck extended while its legs trail behind.

Young limpkins begin foraging for food from a very young age, around two weeks or so. However, it’s not until five weeks when a fledgling limpkin is able to feed itself.