Limpkin Aramus guarauna
Limpkins are extremely localized in Duval County, and there are currently only two known and reliable locations for them. They were first documented as a breeding species in the county during the Breeding Bird Atlas I from 1986 through 1991, and then sort of fell off the local birding radar for a couple of decades. Then in the spring of 2009, one was reported at Westside Industrial Park (WIP) and several birders raced over there to confirm and notch their “county lifer”. I can remember that experience – showing up with my wife Marie, Roger Clark, and Dylan Beyer, and searching for a couple hours before finally hearing (and eventually seeing) one. They’ve been reliable there ever since and have steadily grown in number. In 2014 and 2015 breeding was confirmed there and their numbers fluctuate between roughly four and twenty individuals on a given visit.
Due to the extreme localization of this species in the county, please exercise the strictest ethical birding practices when looking for them. Playing a recording to entice them to call back or show is very much discouraged, and simply isn’t necessary. The group at Westside Industrial Park is often quite gregarious and can be found with little effort.
Westside Industrial Park is off Pritchard Road from the I-295 exit in western Duval County. There are many ponds in the industrial park and you can usually spot them along the edges; drive slowly and you should have good luck, particularly on Jesse B. Smith Court.
In the summer of 2012, at least one was recorded at the Florida State College campus off Beach Boulevard and remained for several months; it has not been reported from the location since. In 2018, a non-birder mentioned they occurred in Huntington Park Forest in the general “Baymeadows” area of town, a location that roughly aligns with the aforementioned breeding records in 1986. A handful have been verified there over several months, suggesting another fairly stable localized population in the county.
Sporadic observations come from other ponds around town but are intermittent in nature; I haven’t analyzed the data, but there may be a correlation between these “one off” dates that could suggest post-breeding dispersal.
Updated 19 June 2020. Photo by K. Dailey.