Birds – The Florida Courlan, Limpkin, Or Crying Bird

(A. giganteus), as it is variously called, is found in Central America and the West Indies, whence it ranges north to the Florida peninsula and the Rio Grande valley. It is known from the other species by the more general distribution of the white stripes over the body. In the Southern or Brazilian Courlan (A. scolopaceus) of eastern South America, the white markings are confined to the neck and head. Both species frequent the borders of swamps and marshy rivers, feeding largely upon mollusks, the shells of which they often pierce with their iron-like bills. The following account of the habits of the Southern Courlan is from the pen of W. H. Hudson, who observed them in Argentina: ” By day the Courlan is a dull bird, concealing itself in dense reed-beds in streams and marshes. When driven up he rises laboriously, the legs dangling down, and mounts vertically to a considerable height. He flies high, the wings curved upward and violently flapping at irregular intervals; descending, he drops suddenly to the earth, the wings motionless, pointing up, and the body swaying from side to side, so that the bird presents the appearance of a falling parachute. On smooth ground he walks faster than a man, striking out his feet in a stately manner and jerking the tail, and runs rapidly ten or twelve yards before rising. At the approach of night it becomes active, uttering long, clear, piercing cries many times repeated, and heard distinctly two miles away. Those cries are most melancholy and, together with its mourning plumage and recluse habits, have made for the Courlan several vernacular names. He is called the Lamenting Bird and Crazy Widow, but is more familiarly known as the Carau. Near sunset the Caraus leave the reed-beds and begin to ascend the streams to visit their favorite fishing grounds. They are very active at night, retiring again at the approach of morning, and sometimes pass the day perched on trees, but more frequently concealed in dense reed-beds. As the breeding season draws near they become exceedingly clamorous, making the marshes resound day and night with their long, wailing cries. The nest is built among the rushes, and contains ten or twelve eggs as large as a Turkey’s, slightly elliptical, sparsely marked with blotches of pale brown and purple on a dull white ground, the whole egg having a powdery or floury appearance. When the nest is approached the parent birds utter sharp, angry notes as they walk about at a distance. The young and old birds live in one flock until the following spring.”