BIRD OF THE WEEK / WEEK 11: March 12, 2018

© Ryan Candee

Bird

American Coot

Species Name

Fulica americana

Appearance

34-43 cm length | 23-28 cm wingspan | 427-848 gm weight

A medium-sized aquatic bird that looks somewhere in between a duck and a chicken. They have a small head with a facial shield, a short, thick bill, short, rounded wings, a short tail and broad, lobed toes.

Predominately black with a white facial shield, white bill, reddish eyes, yellow legs and greenish-blue feet. Juveniles are grey with an olive-brown crown.

Habitat / Behaviour

Omnivore | Wetland, ponds | Lives up to 22 years | Migratory

Coots live near water, typically inhabiting reed-lined wetlands, ponds or larger bodies of water. They prefer freshwater but may be observed around oceans during the winter.

The American Coot is omnivorous and feeds on the water and dives for food, and forages on land. They eat a diet consisting mostly of algae but will also eat other aquatic plants, terrestrial plants, aquatic insects, molluscs and vertebrates.

Courtship is a long process and involves billing, bowing and nibbling. When the nesting site has been chosen and the bond is cemented the male will chase the female around until she sticks her head underwater, and is then mounted by the male for about 2 seconds. Coots may build several nests before selecting the final one to lay their eggs in. A group of coots is called a covert or cover.

Breeding

Monogamous for life | Floating nest | 8-12 whitish eggs with brown spots | 1-2 broods

Female coots show favouritism to their offspring, preferentially feeding chicks with brighter “”chick ornaments””. The American Coot is a victim of conspecific brood parasitism and is one of only 3 bird species to be able to effectively identify her chicks versus that of another coot. She will then attack or abandon impostors in her brood.