Monday, September 21, 2009

Florida State Bird

Florida's official state bird
Image from State Archives of Florida

There is no doubt that the mockingbird has one of the prettiest songs in the animal kingdom. And they are fun to watch, as the animated songbird is extremely active. But the official Florida state bird is very common, not just in Florida but throughout the entire Southeast. Actually four other state share the mockingbird as their official state bird. Recently Florida students voted for a new state bird and they picked the Osprey, according to an article in the St. Pete Times. I love watching Ospreys dive for fish and they are truly magnificent creatures. But according to Wikipedia, "The Osprey has a worldwide distribution and is found in temperate and tropical regions of all continents except Antarctica. In North America it breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to the Gulf Coast and Florida, wintering further south from the southern United States through to Argentina."

Osprey at sunset

Based on uniqueness to Florida alone, my vote for state bird would be the Limpkin. In the US the Limpkin's main habitat is peninsular Florida. According to the Wakulla County, Florida website, "Limpkin were hunted almost to extinction in Florida by the beginning of the 20th century, but with legal protection is making a fair comeback." The Limpkin's primary food the apple snail, is an indicator of water quality. So as the water quality decreased at Wakulla Springs, so has the number of Limkins. So they are an excellent litmus test of man's impact upon the environment.

When we moved to our house on this little lake 6 years ago, the cry of the Limpkin was a persistent reminder that we lived on the water. But this year it had been quiet and I feared that the septic tanks and fertilized lawns around the lake had maybe wrecked the water quality to the point it would no longer support apple snails and fresh water mussels. But just last week the loud distinctive cry of my favorite Florida bird rattled my house at 4 am and I suspect that higher water levels were to blame for its disappearance. Although I didn't appreciate the early wake up call, I enjoy the reminder that Florida was once a wild, untamed land and glimpses of that past are still available.

Audio of the early morning Limpkin wake-up call

One of my favorite characteristics of Limpkins is they have seem to possess an unflappable attitude and are fairly tolerant of people. They have dark large soulful eyes and are one of the few wading birds that will allow you to get close enough to make good eye contact. After looking into the eyes of one of these loud Florida natives, I am more determined than ever to try to ensure they have a healthy place to live in Florida, far into the future.

I recently witnessed this confrontation between a hungry hawk and a cool Limpkin who would have no part of the hawk's attempts to turn it into lunch. Eventually the Limpkin chased the hawk away!


  1. Cool choice of birds! Having such a close relation with water fits coastal Florida. The Florida scrub jay had a lot of sponsors previously. They will land on your hand at the Archbold Biological Station in Lake Placid.

  2. That would be something to see... I'll add it to my list!

  3. You can come take all of our limpkins... please.

  4. We have a small flock of four limpkins that have taken up residence in the lake outside, here in St. Lucie West, FL.
    I love hearing them in the AM!

  5. Love the Mockingbird and if they try to change it like they tried to change our state song I hope he swoops down from that mossy limb and pecks their yankee eyes out. But a lovely site, I enjoyed the information. Thank you