Limpkins in Florida

Limpkin and an Apple SnailLimpkin and an Apple Snail – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

One of my favorite bird sounds while I lived in Florida was the calls of Limpkins in the early morning and although I didn’t spend much time with them because I photographed birds primarily on the coast and they are more inland birds, they made a big impression on me. I loved their plumage patterns, their long curved bills and their loud and unmistakable screaming call.

Limpkins are the only member of their taxonomic family and although they might resemble wading birds they are more closely related to cranes. Their bill is adapted to eating snails, specifically Apple Snails but they will also eat frogs, mussels, insects, spiders.  Florida is about as far north as Limpkins are found in North America and they can be seen in freshwater marshes, ponds, lakeshores and swamps. They can also be found in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Climate change may affect them adversely.

This Limpkin had caught a snail at Lake Seminole Park in Pinellas County the day I photographed it in 2009 as it was swimming across the water to get to the shore to eat the snail. That snail looked like a pretty heavy load to carry across the water in the Limpkin’s bill.

Calling LimpkinCalling Limpkin – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

I photographed this calling Limpkin in 2008 at Roosevelt Wetland which is also in Pinellas County, I was sitting down in the damp grass as it walked past me calling. In the 1800’s settlers noted that Limpkins were so tame people could pick them up from their nests. This one wasn’t quite that tame but it seemed unafraid as it walked past me, maybe that is because I made myself appear small by sitting down and I also held myself very still.

I wanted to include this recording of a Limpkin calling. It is a sound I hope I never forget.

Limpkins are unique. I miss them!

Life is good.


A few Limpkin facts:

  • Limpkins are a Species of Special Concern in Florida due to habitat destruction and drainage of the marshes.
  • Limpkins lay 3 to 8 eggs which hatch in 27 days. Both sexes incubate and they are monogamous.
  • A group of limpkins is known as a “hobbling” of limpkins.
  • Limpkins can live up to 12 years.



  1. Elephants Child October 5, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    That is a haunting call.
    Catching a snail doesn’t sound like it requires the athleticism that other prey demands. It does look heavy though.

  2. Pepe Forte October 5, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Great shots and an excellent narrative about a bird I don’t know anything about. I sure learn a lot from your posts Mia. Thanks.

  3. Patty Chadwick October 5, 2017 at 10:24 am

    These are two especially nice photos of a bird I’ve heard of more than I remember “seeing”. I was so blind to the variety of birds that surrounded me when we lived in Florida! They were all just part of the beaitiful tapestry that was South Miami to me…too busy with school then dealing with an infant .land “managing” the small apartment buliding we lived in to learn much of all the beauty around me. Knew most of the plants, but that was it…sure wish I’d known you then…I missed out on SO MUCH!!!

  4. Judy Eberspaecher October 5, 2017 at 7:20 am

    I love these birds too and was thrilled to see them in Florida as well as the Yucatan in Mexico. I never heard one call so thank you, Mia.

  5. Liz Cormack October 5, 2017 at 6:42 am

    I’ve never heard of Limpkins but I’m so glad you posted this. I can see why they are related to cranes.

  6. LSClemens October 5, 2017 at 5:44 am

    Love that first photo with the snail in its bill!

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