What is that black duck with the white bill?

Initially I thought this was going to be a flock of geese

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.

Best close up shot I could get

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.

Shot of two of the coots

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.






Another shot of part of the group

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?

  1. says

    I think that one of the things I found so interesting about the Coot was it’s feet. They somewhat resemble chicken feet but are more colorful. I’d wondered how those feet could help them get around in the water since they aren’t webbed… must be the “head bobbing” that propels them.

  2. James says

    The Coot is also known as “mud hen” or by several other names such as “crow duck.” A friend once shot one and tried to prepare it to eat. Feathers were very hard to clean off and when cooked it was tough as shoe leather. Said to taste like mud. The old story comes to mind, bake in a slow oven for several hours on a shingle. After the allotted time, throw the bird away and eat the shingle.

  3. Tasha says

    I am trying to indentify two ducklings that my cousin got. One is black with a white neck and black bill and the other looks lile a female mallard a little darker with red undertones on its back. If anyone knows where i can find info on them. She is not even sure if they are both females or not.

  4. says

    We winter in Fountain Hills, Az. and have a beautiful Nationally known fountain and park that has many plants and a walking path. Real issue is that the ‘coots’ also winter here and are making a mess for everyone that likes to walk the path. It seems we get more each year. Is there a way to relocate them?

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