Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) known as Courlan brun in French and Carreo in Spanish is found in the marshes, lakes, ponds, river shores and swamps in Florida and Georgia. The species if found in the American tropics as well. European settlers in the 1800's said this bird species was so tame that they could be caught on their nests. While they are the only member of the taxonomic family they are thought to be related to cranes and rails. The name is derived from the fact they appear to be limp when flying. Mostly nocturnal the nickname of crying bird was given to them because the cry sounds like a person in distress.
Box sexes of limpkin are from 25 to almost 29 inches long with a wing span reaching 39 to just over 42 inches. These birds weigh from 31 to 46 ounces. The limpkin has a long neck, bill and legs that are brown in coloration with white spots. The immature limpkin resemble the adults although the white spots are thinner and there aren't as many.The bill of the limpkin acts like a pair of tweezers when its curved with the gap right before the tip.
Male limpkins are territorial. They will often be aggressive, charging, making loud calls and retreating when something enters their space. The diet includes freshwater mussels and apple snails (Pomacea) which they search for in clear water. The search is either by sight or by using the bill to jab or sweep in the water. The snail is turned over so that the opening is facing up, the limpkin will then cut the muscle that attaches it and remove it from the shell. It only takes ten to twenty seconds to remove the snail and the shell normally remains in tact. They will feed on frogs and insects as well.
The nest of the limpkin is a platform made out of grass, leaves, moss, sticks and vines. The nests are built anywhere from in the limbs of trees that are over 40 from the ground or floating on the surface of water. There are three to eight eggs in the nest that vary in size and color. The eggs of the limpkin can be a light grayish white coloration or a deep olive color with blotches or streaks that are a purplish gray or brown in coloration. There is an incubation period of twenty-seven days during which time both parents will cover the eggs. When the young hatch they have down covering them. They hatch with the abilities to walk, run and swim.
Limpkins used to have a strong population in Florida however from 1966 until 1993 the population was reduced by almost ten percent. Hunting, and conservation efforts for agriculture, development and flood control all contributed to the reduction in the limpkin population. In addition its main food source the Florida apple snail is of special concern on the endangered species listings. There are an estimated one million limpkins remaining in the wild.