Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Coot.


To the uninformed with its habit of swimming around on the surface of open water and diving to reach its food, it is easy to understand why many assume the Coot (Fulica atra) is some sort of duck.

However a quick look at those long legs and large, individually lobed feet (rather than webbed), designed for walking, running and 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 lilies and in this instance it 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.

The nest is usually a cup comprising any available plant material located just above water level. The one above was is still in the construction stage.


Clutch size is 5-7 and incubation by both parents takes 21-24 days.
Usually only a few young survive as they often fall prey to Herons and Gulls. Sometimes a parent might be seen attacking a chick, by grabbing its head and shaking it, sometimes fatally. This extreme behavior is thought to relate to food supply thereby ensuring that there are not too many chicks competing for available resources. 



 "Mind where you are treading!".


The (precocial) chicks leave the nest fairly soon after hatching and parental care is much longer than most rail species with adults continuing to feed them for about a month.

It takes around 55-60 days for the youngsters to achieve their juvenile plumage and the dark beak will change to the distinctive white when they are about a year old.

The phrase "And yet he was as balde as is a coote" is referred to in John Lydgate's Chronicle of Troy, 1430. Whilst you might think this could relate to the heads of the chicks it actually arose from the adults' appearance; the extensive white frontal shield (much larger on males) against the black plumage.


Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday.

19 comments:

  1. A wonderful post Frank... lovely images.

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  2. such GREAT shots! their little bald chicks look like friars to me. :)

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  3. Love the feet shot but only a mother Coot could love that tiny ugly chick!

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  4. Great photos of the coots - those feet look amazing. The young ones are certainly not the most beautiful babies! but kind of cute!

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  5. Interesting and informative post Frank, and there's me thinking that the only thing that Coots did was fight and squabble with each other? I guess if you start of life looking like those chicks do you're going to have a bit of an attitude problem? Those feet are just amazing...[;o)

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  6. Fabulous photos of the coots. You gotta love those feet, they're amazing.

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  7. Awesome series on the Coots! I love the cute chick!

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  8. Loved learning more about the coots! I've never seen the babies...so incredibly cute. Great post and great photos.

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  9. I'm glad you were able to pick up those fantastic feet; aren't they amazing?! Beautiful chicks.

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  10. The adults are quite handsome birds, with amazing feet, but those poor little chicks, yikes! Great reflection in that last shot!

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  11. This was a fascinating post! I saw a coot with chicks recently but knew NOTHING about them! It was so interesting learning about their habits, and the structure of their feet. Great post!

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  12. Frank, It is obviously me but the chicks are definitely NOT cute :)
    Amazing shots though, and a lot of information. See them occasionally.

    We had Moorhens with their juvenile on the pond this morning. You know how tiny our pond is but they seemed to be having a great time. Caused havoc with the grasses :)
    Watched from the kitchen window so no images sadly.

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  13. They're such an interesting species...love the babies, and the feet!! Your photos are incredible, as always.

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  14. Thank you for sharing the brilliant photos and interesting information Frank.

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  15. Great shots. I love the close up of the feet!

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  16. Informative post and great shots of the coots! Ditto on the feet.

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  17. Thanks for all your visits and complimentary comments.

    I agree the young Coots aren't particularly good looking!

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  18. nice shots. I rarely see this bird up walking. Just up and down the nest. The feet looks very nasty actually. Thanks for sharing the images.

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