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. 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, has a handful of 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 seven far inland records, from the Piedmont (in 2015 and 2019-21) and from the mountains (in 2019). There are now enough records in most of the state that review of any further records by the NC BRC might no longer be necessary.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Casual to very rare (five records), 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).
Piedmont Six records -- if all are of different birds. An individual 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]. Lastly, one was seen at Lake Norman State Park (Iredell) on 30 Jul 2021. One might think that a few of these records involve the same bird moving around from one central Piedmont locale to another in the 2019-2020 seasons. And, as nearly all 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 One report: 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.
Finding Tips Your best hope of finding one in NC 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, several 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 is not needed.
1/2 *
Attribution LeGrand[2021-11-07], LeGrand[2020-08-02], LeGrand[2020-04-18]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.