Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Bird of the week April 12: Limpkin

The secretive limpkin is a favorite of mine. I feel so lucky to see them along the flow-way at Panther Island with relative frequency. Found in wooded and brushy swamps, sloughs, and marshes plus along rivers,streams, and lakes throughout Florida and up into southern Georgia, the limpkin is usually seen alone and twitching its tail while looking for prey along waters' edge. This bird has a unique bill that when closed has a gap just before the tip that allows it to be used like tweezers, and this adaptation allows them to forage on apple snails. They also eat freshwater mussels, worms, and insects.

Limpkins are monogamous, and the males are territorial and will engage other males in aggressive and ritualistic displays that include behaviors such as loud calling, charging and retreating. Both adults work to build a platform nest composed of sticks, leaves, moss and other vegetation and are built in a variety of locations. Both sexes then incubate the eggs. The precocial young are looked after by the parents but can swim, run, and walk once they bust out of their shells.

This species is also unique in it being the only member of its taxonomic family! And while they resemble ibises and herons in their general body form, they are actually more closely related to rails and cranes. The limpkin (which was named for its unusual gait) is listed in Florida as a species of special concern. Their population is relatively stable in Florida, but numerous threats abound such as wetland drainage and apple snail population declines. Thick mats of nonnative vegetation like water hyacinth prevent them from finding food. Large monocultures of cattails degrade the environment as well and can also limit access to food. At Panther Island, we work diligently to keep cattails in check and to eradicate nonnative vegetation.

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