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American Coot Coot

Identification and Pictures

(Fulica americana)American Coot

American coots are a duck like bird with short wings and a short tail, about 13 to 16 inches.  They have a slate gray body, white chicken like bill with dark red ring near the tip, and black head and neck with a red-orange eye.  There is a dark shield on the top of the bill where it meets the forehead.  Under the tail is a divided white patch. They have yellow legs and big lobbed feet.  A white border can be seen on wings when in flight.

They pump their head and neck back and forth while swimming.  When they take off they run across the water with their wings flapping to get air born.

The sexes are similar.  Younger birds are paler and chicks have a hairy orange-red head and shoulders.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

     American Coot


I guess this is where the term "Crazy as a Coot" comes from.

This Coot would flap his wings to get the box moving.  He would then stand on one leg until it stopped.  I watched for some time as he kept repeating this.

Coot sound

Sounds are Ka-ha ka-ha, short cackling sounds, and a grating kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk.

Preferred Habitat

Summer range is across much of Canada, and Northern U.S.  They will migrate south in the winter but are year round residents in much of the western, and southern U.S. as long as they have access to open water.   They are found in ponds, marshes and lakes.  In winter they can be seen in costal bays, inlets and fields.

Breeding and Nesting

Mating season is around May or June, and both sexes will do displays to attract the other.  During these displays they will splash around while calling to each other.  Coots usually nest on the edges of ponds.  Both birds build a nest of stems, and leaves on a floating platform.  It will be hidden in the vegetation, and anchored to reeds. The female will lay 8 to 12 buff eggs with brown spots.  Both birds will care for the eggs as well as the roles of feeding the young, and teaching them to dive.  The young may be divided up, each parent taking responsibility for half of them.  The eggs hatch in around 23 days.  Shortly after hatching the young begin to swim, and follow the parents to be fed.  They will be able to fly in 5 to 6 weeks.


Coot's diet is mostly plant material but they also feed on insects, worms, small fish, and tadpoles.  They feed sometimes in small flocks on the shore, on lawns, and on the water.  They will dive for food with upward jump before plunging beneath the water.  They will bring up plants from the bottom then go through them to pick out anything edible.

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