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Limpkin: Aramidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Most limpkins are solitary, they live alone. In some cases, limpkins may be found in pairs, usually male and female breeding partners, or in small groups. Limpkins are good swimmers and slow but strong fliers. The name limpkin comes from the slightly awkward walk of the species. However, limpkins are in fact strong runners. At night, limpkins tend to roost either in shrubs or in the tops of dead trees. Most limpkins are not migratory, spending the entire year in one location. However, some South American limpkin populations move between a wet season habitat and a dry season habitat.

The limpkin is the only species in the family Aramidae and has no close relatives. However, within the Gruiformes, similarities to both cranes and rails have long been noted. In particular, the general physical appearance and hunting behavior of limpkins resemble that of cranes, but other aspects of behavior, including a more secretive nature, resemble that of rails and their relatives.


The apple snail is important to the limpkin's diet. Limpkins have several physical adaptations that help it deal with this prey. Since the apple snail's shell curves to the right, limpkins adapted a bill that also curves to the right, making it possible to insert the bill into the snail shell. The tip of the upper beak is sharpened to allow limpkins to cut the snail out of the shell. Finally, limpkins have a small gap in the bill which helps them carry and handle snails.

The call of a limpkin is extremely distinctive. It is a loud, wild-sounding scream or wail that is frequently described as a "kree-ow kree-ow" sound. The call is given most often in the early morning or at night, as well as on cloudy days. This loud, distinctive cry accounts for some of the nicknames the limpkin has picked up in parts of its range. These include wailing bird, crying bird, and crazy widow. Limpkins also make a quieter clicking noise.

Limpkins build their nests near water. Most often, nests are built either on the ground, hidden in dense vegetation, or up in a tree. In some cases, nests may be 20 feet (6 meters) off the ground or even higher. Nests are built from reeds and grass and lined with softer plant material. In general, four to eight eggs are laid at a time by the female. The eggs range from white to pale brown in color, and may or may not be lightly spotted. Both male and female limpkins participate in all phases of reproductive activity, including nest-building, incubating the eggs, and feeding and caring for the young once they hatch. Limpkin young are Limpkin chicks are able to leave the nest about one day after hatching. (© Bill Dyer/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.) precocial (pree-KOH-shul), meaning they are fairly developmentally advanced when they hatch, being covered with down (rather than featherless) and able to move. Limpkin chicks are able to leave the nest about one day after hatching, and follow one of the parents around until they become independent.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsLimpkin: Aramidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, LIMPKINS AND PEOPLE