The first state-record limpkin shows up in Orrville

The first state-record limpkin shows up in Orrville
Bruce Glick

Limpkin in Orrville on July 6, 2019.


Limpkins are found in Florida, Mexico, Central America and South America. This good-sized marsh bird had never been sighted as far north as Ohio. Checking the records for stray limpkins, I found a June 10, 2018 sighting in Maryland and several other records from Virginia and the Carolinas, all of them in April, May, June or July. Further south there have been more sightings across the southeastern states.

On Saturday, July 6, an Orrville family returned to their home near a small pond and woodlot. One of their three boys saw a strange-looking heron-like bird standing at the edge of the pond. Soon the three of them were looking through bird books to see what kind of bird it was. They found the picture of a limpkin but read that limpkins are not found in Ohio. However, this bird looked exactly like a limpkin. It was easy to take photos, as the bird seemed only interested in pulling mussels/clams from the pond.

Next they contacted a friend who posted the photo, getting immediate responses from several people. One of them was Larry Rosche from Kent and one of Ohio’s most experienced birders. Larry and I have been friends for almost 40 years, and he knew I’d want to know about this, so he sent me a text. What he didn’t know was that I was visiting with friends at a reunion, not more than 10 minutes from Orrville. I called Kent Miller, who also had heard about the limpkin and was on his way. We ended up meeting near Orrville and driving to the location on the west side of town.

There were already more than a dozen people there including the three boys who found the bird. They were enjoying the excitement and had set up a table with lemonade. The limpkin was standing at the edge of the pond, paying no attention to all the people watching from the street across from the pond. It was already late evening, and as the light faded, the limpkin flew up into a large tree. Fortunately it was still easily visible for the birders who were still arriving just before dark.

As is always the case when birders gather to see a rare bird, we enjoyed catching up with friends we don’t get to see very often. Some of them were from as far away as the Cleveland area, but because the bird wasn’t found until early evening, there wasn’t time for birders from Columbus or further away to make it. As far as I know, the limpkin was not seen the following day. It would be very interesting to know whether it flew back south or continued to wander through Ohio.

Ohio birders often make lists of birds they think might show up in the state someday. I doubt limpkin has been on many of those lists. It’s always a matter of luck when an extremely rare bird shows up somewhere near people. This bird could just as well have stopped deep in the Killbuck Marsh or Funk Bottoms and never have been seen by anyone. As it was, the bird created a lot of excitement and another story to be treasured by those of us lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Good birding!

Email Bruce Glick at or call 330-317-7798.

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