Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Coot

Most often seen swimming & diving for food on open water, it would be easy to think that the Coot (Fulica atra) is a duck. However a quick look at those long legs and large, individually lobed feet (rather than webbed), designed for walking, running & even sprinting, mean that this is a member of the Rallidae family. Unlike a duck, the Coot is able to spread it weight and can be seen walking over floating vegetation, including water lillies and in this instance was 'walking on the water'
Most rails are shy, retiring and therefore often difficult to see but the Coot is fairly tame, numerous and more often than not very noisy - uttering short-tempered "kut" calls plus other clucks and discordant noises. Apart from those extraordinary feet its most prominent feature is the white frontal shield (larger in the male than female) set against the coal-black plumage. It will challenge rivals by lowering its head and the aggressive threat display, starts with a charge across the water, then the adult leans back and attacks, striking opponents using its long legs.
The nest is a cup comprising any available plant material located just above water level. Coots are normally very attentive parents, but their aggression beyond adult rivalry, can seem sinister when very occasionally you may witness an adult attacking a chick sometimes fatally. This behaviour is thought to be linked to food supply - reducing the brood to match resources!

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for a very interesting post. We have Coots out here (fulica atra) but I had never looked closely at their feet.

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  2. Cheers Mick, I'v corrected the spelling mistake.

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  3. That's a mighty strange lookin' bird, isn't it Frank?
    Thanks for the great close-up shots and facts on the coot.

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  4. The photos are great, especially the first one. It points out how adapted it is to his environment. Thanks for the exta data.

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  5. I love Coots and I've never seen such a wonderful view of their neat feet.

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  6. Very interesting post and I learned a lot. I can't get over its feet!

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  7. Great pictures. I admit I have never looked at the feet but definitely will this spring when the Coots come back.

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  8. In defence of the humble coot - they are so often overlooked so it's good to hear more about them.

    I've never come to terms with the size of their feet in proportion to their body, nor the colour of them! They always look cold no matter what the time of year.

    And I've noticed that, at the moment, there seem to be so many more of the about than normal!!

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  9. Wow, look at those feet! I've never seen one, let alone one this interesting. :c)

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  10. A very interesting post followed by a nice series of pictures. I love the one of the toes....

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  11. What a great post. Coots have the status of occasional visitor on my patch!

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  12. Thanks 'Earlybirders' for your comments. I'm pleased that you appreciated the 'feet' of this numerous but often ignored species.

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  13. ...loved the shot of those funky feet, and I enjoyed the commentary also.

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