April’s Bird of the Month is the Limpkin, and here is the article in the upcoming April 2017 Kite written by Ben Kolstad.
Limpkin Aramus guarauna SSC
Eats apple snails. What else do you need to know? Well, it’s on the cover of Stevenson and Anderson’s Birdlife of Florida (1994), which is still the most comprehensive source of information about Florida’s avifauna. Limpkin is one of the loudest birds you’ll ever hear, and, if you remember old Tarzan movies and other jungle films or television episodes, you’ll probably have heard its shrill k-k-k-keeeeoooowww in the background.
It’s a tall brown bird with very long grayish-brown legs, largish white chevrons on the body that become smaller and more numerous on the neck until they look just like brown-and-white streaks, and a “comically tiny” (Pete Dunne) head. Taxonomically it’s somewhere between a crane and a rail, although it looks more like an ibis with a longer and slightly straighter bill. Although the Limpkin’s bill is not actually straight—in fact, the bills of some individuals are somewhat curved from left to right, perhaps as an adaptation to opening the shells of the snails on which it feeds – it is slightly open, a trait common to only one other bird family in the world, called, appropriately, the openbills. Limpkins tend to hold its unusual bill vertically, rather than horizontally like the ibises.
Although they are locally abundant along our south Florida canals and waterways, Limpkins are a species of special concern for the FWC. The North American population is almost entirely restricted to Florida, with some slight spillover into Georgia.
Etymological note: it’s possible that the genus name Aramus derives from the Greek word for heron, perhaps because of its resemblance to birds in the family Ardeidae. The specific epithet, guarauna, comes from a native Venezuelan tribe (the Warrau) which lives where these birds are abundant.
(Photographer’s please note that next month’s May 2017 Bird will be the Sandhill Crane)