Sometimes treasures happen when you aren’t even looking.
I drove out to a small private lake hoping to capture some good photos of the geese flying south. While I did get some great shots of the geese in flight, I found a bird I knew nothing about in the water. This is a coot.
Initially I thought the birds in the water would be geese, or perhaps ducks. Snapping their picture then taking them home to investigate brought me some basic facts on this bird. The American coot is a member of the rail family, black head and body, red eyes and a white bill. For me the most noticable distinction for the coot is the white bill, which is compressed vertically rather than horizontally like a duck. The American coot has a black spot on the end of the bill. You can see it on some of the pictures I have included here.
I found some great information as well as a journal relating the story of one particular coot. It seems that they can become distracted, either by injury or by mating, and may not be able to migrate at all. Generally an aggressive bird when fighting for territory, you can find them swimming in groups, which was the case for me. In the northwest it is common to see the coot all year long; migration patterns may just be from inland to the coastal regions. I couldn’t find much information on the migration patterns.
I found them graceful as they coasted along in the water, and it was fun to watch them dive for food. The coot will use its head to propel itself forward, a back and forth movement, not quite bobbing, but that’s an apt description. They eat water plants, occasionally small fish; on the shore the coot will eat grubs or bugs along with their vegetation. They have also been know to eat the eggs of other birds.
What can you share about the coots in your area?