Crying Bird

by Beverly J. Letchworth | May 1, 2024 | 0 comments

Limpkin flying
Limpkin. Photo © Svetlana Foote|

Something moved in the weeds along the shoreline. It was bulky and slow. With a heavy body and long neck and legs, it waded in the water, high-stepping all the way. Its long thick bill curved slightly downward. The bird used it to probe the shore for apple snails, its favorite food.

Finding one, the bird turned with it to solid ground where it worked to remove the snail from its shell. The tip of its bill curved slightly to the right, which helped in plucking out the snail.

Then back it went to the water to hunt for more. Seeing a large insect within reach, the bird snatched it up. A mussel, too, it pounded open, all the while keeping a lookout for an alligator or snake or even a large turtle that could attack.

The bird moved slowly, seemingly very tame and approachable. But, if danger threatened, it could gallop away at surprisingly great speed. It was also a strong flyer and a good swimmer, although it rarely swam. As it plodded along, searching for food, the bird seemed to be moving in slow motion, lifting each leg high, then putting it down—slowly up, slowly down. Then after a while, its gait changed, and the bird seemed to be limping.

This limping action probably gave the bird its name—Limpkin. But it’s also called the crying bird. The Limpkin makes clicking and clucking noises, but the “crying bird” name comes from the loud wails the bird makes during the night and at dawn—a loud, frightening, unforgettable “krrr-eeeow” wail.

The Limpkin looks like something between a crane and rail. It stands 2 feet (60 cm) tall and has a wingspan of over 3 feet (1 m). It’s found in wetlands in warm parts of the Americas from Georgia and Florida to Argentina.

Limpkins nest either on the ground or in shrubs or trees. Primarily the male builds the nest of reeds and grasses, though the female may help some. Both parents incubate their three to eight eggs during the day, and the female guards them at night. Within a day of hatching, the young leave the nest, able to walk, run, swim, and follow wherever their parents lead them. At four months old, they’re on their own.

Limpkin eating
Limpkin. Photo © Luca Nichetti|

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