Listen to the Limpkin’s Banshee Wail

This Florida wader has a call that sounds more raptor than waterbird.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote.

It’s before dawn on a spring day in the Big Cypress Swamp of Florida. Mist is rising from quiet water into Spanish moss hanging from the cypress branches. Suddenly, a startling sound breaks the silence.

A male Limpkin has awakened! This relatively tall bird, whose dark brown feathers are streaked with white, stretches and calls again. In the distance, a Red-shouldered Hawk responds.

The Limpkin hops down from its perch and begins probing the dark water with its long bill. It’s foraging for apple snails, each the size of a golf ball. When it touches a big, round shell, it grabs it quickly and pulls it from the water. Then, moving to solid ground, the Limpkin positions the shell, and using the curved tip of its lower mandible, it scissors loose the operculum – the door that closes the shell – and pulls out the snail. One quick swallow, and it’s on to find the rest of breakfast.

By this time, other birds have awakened, and Carolina Wrens and White-eyed Vireos are declaring their territories.  A Pig Frog adds to the amphibian and avian chorus of the Big Cypress Swamp.

I’m Michael Stein. 



Narrator: Michael Stein

Producer: John Kessler

Written by Dennis Paulson

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Bird sounds and Pig Frog provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of Limpkin 2789 recorded by D. McChesney; Red-shouldered Hawk 105335 by G.A. Keller; Carolina Wren by T.A. Parker III; White-eyed Vireo song 73896 by G.A. Keller; Pig Frog 42082 by O. Hewitt.

© 2014 Tune In to     April 2014/2018/2019