OAK HARBOR — Those in the Magee Marsh area received quite a treat this week, when a limpkin, a Florida resident, was spotted by several bird enthusiasts on August 23-25. The limpkin, a relatively tame bird that will allow humans to get pretty close, “posed’ for several good pictures, as well.
Interestingly, the sighting at Magee Marsh is only the third all-time in Ohio and all of those documented sightings have come this year.
In other words, before this summer, the limpkin has never before been seen in Ohio. The first ever sighting occurred in July, in Orrville (for one day only). Then, the limpkin was reportedly seen, complete with a few pictures, east of Cleveland.
The Magee Marsh limpkin was first seen on Aug. 4 and 5. There was then a three week lapse before the bird was seen in the same narrow area, on August 23-25.
The limpkin is a permanent resident in just one state, Florida. It has occasionally been spotted in Georgia, with also a handful of sightings in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Before this summer, the furthest north the limpkin was previously seen was in Maryland.
The limpkin is mostly dark brown in color, with several white streaks, or spots. Its long legs are gray. It has a long neck and a long, curved beak, that is either yellow, or orange, in color.
In comparison to Ohio’s wading birds, the limpkin is about the size of a snowy egret, between 25-29 inches long, with a wingspan of 42 inches. It also has a very unique call, according to allaboutbirds.com: “This bird’s haunting cries, heard mostly at night, are otherworldly and unforgettable.”
Also, allaboutbirds.com said the limpkin has a very unique bird, built for feasting on its favorite dish, the apple snail: “The limpkin’s bill is equipped with some interesting dimensions: “The long bill is twisted at the top, for removing snails from the shell. The closed bill has a gap just before the tip and the bill acts like tweezers. The top is curved slightly to the right, so it can be slipped into the right hand curve of the snail’s shell.”
The limpkin reportedly received its name because when it walked, it appeared to have a limp. The bird likes to hang out in freshwater marshes in Florida, where it can find a plethora of apple snails.
“Since the bird was spotted close to a month ago in the same spot, that makes me feel it’s been around (the whole time),” said Mark Shieldcastle, research director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. “While the limpkin was never before seen in Ohio, there have been three different sightings this year. If you look at photographs of the birds, they are three different birds and all appear to be adults. It’s hard to figure out why they are here, especially because when you see birds well out of their normal range, usually, they are immatures. Now we’ll have to wait and see if they can find their way back to where they belong.”
“The bird at Magee Marsh is easy to see when it’s out there (feeding),” Shieldcastle continued. “And it has no problem finding food. There is a type of snail here that is about the same size as the apple snail, that it has been eating. It has also been eating frogs and small turtles, as well.”
Saving the Monarch
COLUMBUS — Monarch butterflies are in trouble. The monarch population in the eastern U.S. has declined up to 90 percent in the last 20 years. In response, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) are helping monarchs by adding ideal habitats across the state.
To create monarch habitat, Ohio plans to add millions of milkweed and nectar plants by 2035. Milkweed plants host breeding monarchs, and nectar plants provide food.
“We’re working hard to protect and restore Ohio’s natural resources, and this is just another example,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “This initiative is not only about the monarch butterfly population but the effect pollinators have on our landscape, agriculture, and economy. State agencies are working together to make a positive impact while also conserving taxpayer dollars.”
“The monarch butterfly is a valuable part of our state’s natural diversity,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “Providing the right habitats will boost monarchs and help other pollinators that are important to Ohio.”
ODNR organizes the collection of milkweed seeds sent around Ohio. The department also educates the public on creating monarch habitat. Since 2014, ODNR has planted milkweed and nectar plants across 58,000 acres of wildlife areas.
“This is ODOT’s contribution to supporting our valuable agribusiness and ecosystem, both of which depend on vital pollinators like the monarch butterfly,” said Jack Marchbanks, Director of ODOT. “Our efforts don’t just benefit pollinators, but taxpayers as well.”
ODOT has created 126 pollinator habitats in 47 counties in the last five years. These 1,200 acres, combined with 80,000 acres of reduced highway mowing, provide habitat for pollinators and saved Ohio taxpayers $2.2 million in 2018. ODOT plans to add 125 acres of new pollinator habitat each year going forward.
“Pollinators are an essential component to Ohio’s agricultural industry,” said Dorothy Pelanda, Director of ODA. “Agriculture and food contribute $124 billion to Ohio’s economy each year. Ohio’s vegetables, fruit trees, honey, and hay production are all dependent on pollinators.”