November 2021 Birds Needs Plants Photo Contest

Apple Snails for Lunch © Rebecca Smith. 6/30/21 Kissimmee Lakefront Park, Kissimmee.

So Eager The Young Are

Limpkin
Aramus guarauna

by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D.

Oh, so eager the young are, not wanting to miss anything, especially a big juicy apple snail!  Yum! This keenly focused young’un is staying right close, mirroring Mom (well, it could be Dad as both parents share care of their young). But if the other parent was present, we’d know because males are larger than females in this species.  The parent will demonstrate to its young how to de-shell the snail using its specially grooved bill to slice through the muscle that attaches it to the shell. The whole snail is then fed directly to the youngling.   

If you find empty snail shells singly or in heaps (known as middens) along freshwater marshes, swamp–forest edges, or lake, river, or canal margins in Florida, you likely have found a favorite deshelling location for the resident Limpkin. Limpkins are found where apple snails live, searching visually in clear waters or probing with sensitive bills and feet in turbid waters while walking through reeds, sugarcane fields, and on thick mats of floating vegetation to locate apple snails and freshwater mussels. Both native and introduced species of apple snails are readily devoured.

If you live near where the Limpkins feed, you are likely familiar with its loud, raucous calls, often at night, quite startling for Halloween for the unsuspecting trick or treaters. However, these calls are more frequent and loudest between mating pairs, and when preparing to nest, the male and female will duet.  Males’ extensive “Kreow or Kow” calls are rhythmically interspersed with the females ‘gon’ calls. Young also give off clicks likely to show their location to their parents. In early morning the Limpkins call more frequently, but also, in the evening, on cloudy days, and before rains! Unpaired males may be more persistent and louder at night.

Photo technical data: Lumix GX9 Leica 100-400 ƒ/5.1, 213 mm, 1/500, ISO 400

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