Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Limpkin - Aramus guarauna
Sole representative of ARAMIDAE in NC
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General Comments The Limpkin breeds locally over much of the Neotropics, ranging north to Florida, and a few are now breeding in South Carolina. Within this wide range, it is generally non-migratory. Fortunately for states north of Florida, a few individuals, perhaps young of the year, stray northward a few hundred miles, and North Carolina, as expected, now has numerous records. Also as expected, most of these sightings come from habitats similar to that on the breeding grounds -- shorelines of wooded lakes, ponds, or slow-moving rivers, in the southeastern portion of the state. There are now at least 30 far inland records, from the Piedmont (in 2015 and 2019-23) and from the mountains (in 2019 and 2023). There are now enough records to no longer need NC BRC review.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Casual to now very rare (eight records), nearly all in the southern Coastal Plain. One seen along the Waccamaw River, 7 Sep 1975* [Chat 40:94-95 link]; one seen at Smith Mill Pond (Bladen), 20 May 1983* [Chat 51:100 link]; one photographed near New Bern, 21 Jun - 1 Jul 1998* [Chat 63:83-84 link]; one seen at Roan Island in the Cape Fear River, 13 Aug 1998 (not reviewed by the NC BRC); and one seen along the Black River on the border of Bladen and Pender, 1 Jul and 14 Jul 2018 [Chat 82:108 link] (also not yet reviewed). In 2023, singles were seen at Merchants Millpond SP (Gates) from 4 Sep - 9 Oct, another was at a canal at Lake Waccamaw (Columbus) on 8 Oct, and one was at Buckhorn Reservoir (Wilson) from 7-11 Dec.
Piedmont Greatly increasing post-breeding(?) visitor, though still very rare to rare; now (2024) close to 25 records, though some are clearly of the same individual bird. One was seen and photographed in coves in northern Lake Norman in Catawba and Iredell from 28 Jul - 16 Aug 2015* [Chat 79:180 link], [Chat 80:14 link], [Chat 80:31 link]. One was photographed at Mountain Island Lake (Mecklenburg), from 21 May - 10 Jun 2019* [Chat 83:89 link]. One was surprisingly late in the season near the Lake Tillery dam (Stanly) from 21 Nov - 2 Dec 2019* [Chat 84:17 link]. Remarkable for the winter season (not yet reviewed) were singles at Lake Hickory (Catawba), 5 Feb 2020 [Chat 84:61 link]; and Yadkin River near High Rock Lake (Rowan), 8 Feb 2020 [Chat 84:61 link]. One was seen at Lake Norman State Park (Iredell) on 30 Jul 2021; and another (perhaps the same bird) was seen at this same general area on 19-22 May 2022. In summer 2023, single birds were seen at Badin Lake (Stanly) on 19 Jul and along the Catawba in western Mecklenburg on 21 Jul. In fall 2023, singles were reported in these counties: Caldwell, Catawba, Chatham, Durham, Forsyth, Iredell, and Rockingham; two were seen together in Catawba and Durham, with the latest date being on 18 Nov. In winter 2023-24, singles were reported in Catawba and Chatham, with the latest date being 24 Dec. As many regional records are from a rather small area centered around the southern Piedmont, certainly some refer to one or two birds moving around there and in adjacent South Carolina.
Mountains Very rare visitor, increasing. Five reports: One was seen and photographed at Owen Park in Asheville (Buncombe) on 8 Jul 2019* [Chat 83:112-113 link]; there is a photo on the Carolina Bird Club Photo Gallery. In fall 2023, individuals were seen at Jackson Park (Henderson) from 8 Sep - 15 Oct, at Lake Junaluska (Haywood) on 21 Sep and 1 Oct; at Biltmore Estate (Buncombe) from 29 Sep - 1 Oct; and one that probably lingered (hidden) at Lake Junaluska from 1-29 Dec 2023 (as one was reported there two months earlier).
Finding Tips Your best hope of finding one in NC by chance would be to paddle along a blackwater river in the southern Coastal Plain in summer or early fall. Of course, there are far too few records to literally expect to see one. Thankfully, a number of recent birds have been at more accessible sites for observation, particularly those from the Piedmont; your best bet is now hope to see a stake-out bird where a boat/canoe/kayak is not needed.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-05-09], LeGrand[2024-02-10], LeGrand[2023-10-20]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.