American Coot (For Wild Bird Wednesday)


Fulica Americana

American Coot

American Coot

Stewart’s post of the Dusky Moorhen and his questions about similarities of related species around the world, and Brian King’s post of his fishing Coot, prompted this entry for today’s post and link to Wild Bird Wednesday.  (Just call me a “copy coot”.)

Continued thanks to Stewart for hosting this window into birding around the world!

Although the coot resembles a duck, it actually belongs to the same family group as the secretive rails and much larger cranes.  They’re very common on most bodies of water in the U.S. and can often gather in large flocks numbering in the thousands.  They feed primarily on vegetation with an occasional insect or small fish supplementing their diet.  The coot builds hollow floating nests usually anchored to dense vegetation away from the shore and will often occupy nests built by other birds.

They are not very graceful when flying and require a lot of space for take-off.  To help them “walk on water”, dive, swim and stand on soft mud or vegetation, the coot has very specialized feet.  Each of the coot’s long toes has broad lobes of skin which fold back each time the bird lifts its foot, so it doesn’t interfere with walking on dry land, supports the bird’s weight on soft ground or vegetation and helps it swim.

Most American Coots have a small dark red patch (frontal shield) on their forehead just above the bill.  Some males have a swollen white frontal shield instead of red, observed on birds mostly in the southern ranges.

They can be drab when compared to other, more colorful birds, but the coot is a unique water bird and can be really entertaining to observe.

Note the defensive arrangement of birds looking outward from all sides.

Note the defensive arrangement of birds looking outward from all sides.

Special feet for a special bird.

Special feet for a special bird.

Those special feet help the coot in his long, running take-off.

Those special feet help the coot in his long, running take-off.

A threat is detected.

A threat is detected.

Time to get away!

Time to get away!

American Coot     ("Give me some respect!")

American Coot

(“Give me some respect”!)

See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for


Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “American Coot (For Wild Bird Wednesday)

  1. Good description and photos to back it up, Wally. Coots are a hoot. I ignore them all too often, then realize my mistake and go on a “coot binge”. About time for another one, I think…

    • I grew up with these guys making so much noise I blamed them for the fish not biting! I’m trying to learn not to rush past them on the way to search for “more attractive species”.

  2. I very much enjoyed this ‘lesson’ on coots. We had them on lakes in the town where I grew up but I’ve never seen one up close and certainly had no idea about their special feet. Wonderful captures!

    Thanks for your visit and comment on my Cooper’s Hawk.

    • I really appreciate your kind comments! They’re a lot of fun to watch and I grew up fishing on local lakes where the coots outnumbered the mosquitos! 🙂

  3. I love to photograph Coots, they are fun to watch and a challenge to get the exposure right. Love the action in your image Wally.

  4. Very interesting information about the coots. I especially like you observation about their defensive posture. I bet I’ve seen it many times myself without recognizing it was occurring. Love those big feet!

    • Thank you, Ken. Those feet are something and really turn into quite the weapons in the Spring.

      We hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and wish you all the best in the coming year.

  5. Sorry. Forgot to wish you the best for the holiday and New Year.

  6. Nice work Wally. Especially like shot of the protesting Coot. Is this because it spotted the alligator? I must say that’s the first ime I’ve ever seen Coot and ‘gator in the same frame but I suppose it’s a fairly regular occurence in Florida and Coot a part of alligators’ diet? Your American Coot shares the same characteristic feet as our Common Coot.

    • Phil, thank you. Yes, coot is a staple of the ‘gators diet. For swimming waterfowl, the alligators will often grab them by the feet and drag them underwater until they drown. Those feet are amazing!

  7. Just inside and to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂
    Christmas Greetings Hanne Bente

  8. “Copy coot” – you do have a humorous side don’t you Wally! 🙂 I like it!
    Wonderful shots ending with that splendid reflection!
    Wishing you and yours a Very Merry Christmas!
    Check back with you in the New Year!

  9. Some really wonderful image shares in this series!!!

  10. That coot taking off is. a hoot :>) The last shot is a stunner, Wally. Great reflection!

  11. Beautiful story of the Coot. Good photography.

  12. Hi there – at least I can see a difference between this coot and the one we get in Australia (and the UK – its the same species) – there is a dark mark on the bill – all else seems very similar.

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • Stewart, we have a variant here in the southern U.S. that has a white patch instead of the dark red. In looking at the U.K. field guide it appears nearly identical. Have a good Holiday! –Wally

  13. Beautiful photography! I love that last shot.

  14. TexWisGirl

    great shots! laughed at the copy coot. yes, you guys of a feather do stick together. 😉

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