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American Coot - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Fulmar
Upper Newport Bay (Back Bay), Newport Beach, California, USA, February 2004
Fulica americana

Includes: Caribbean Coot

Identification

Length 34-43 cm (13¼-17 in), wingspan 60-70 cm, weight 430-840 g (males heavier, but some overlap)

  • Dark blackish-gray, duck-like bird with
  • White bill and frontal shield with dark spots near the tip, and red swelling at upper edge, visible at close range
  • White undertail coverts, and
  • Dull yellow legs with lobed toes.
  • In the Caribbean a white-shielded morph is found (formerly recognized as Caribbean Coot)

Immatures similar but paler, with duller bill.

Chick
Photo by cgphoto
Lake Murray, San Diego, California, USA, June 2007

Similar Species

Eurasian Coot is also similar, but has an all-white bill and frontal shield with a 'pinched-in' base, greenish-gray legs, and lacks the white under-tail coverts.

Distribution

Breeds throughout North America: Alaska and Canada through the continental U.S., and is a resident in Colombia and Ecuador; winters in the western and southern U.S. and the West Indies (where range is apparently expanding1).

Vagrancy

In late summer and autumn occasionally wanders north to Newfoundland and even southern Greenland. In the Western Palearctic recorded February-April and October-November in Iceland and the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Britain, and several times in the Azores. In September 1990 recorded in the Algarve of southern Portugal and recently recorded for the first time in Spain (November 1999), with the second record a bird in Galicia in January 2003.

Taxonomy

Photo by BCooper
Echo Bay, Lake Mead, Nevada, October 2008
  • Hawaiian Coot (F. alai) and Slate-colored Coot (F. ardesiaca) are now split from American Coot.
  • Caribbean Coot is now included in this species as a white-shielded morph.

Subspecies

There are 2 subspecies2:

  • F. a. americana:
  • F. a. columbiana:

Habitat

Open ponds and marshes; in winter, also on coastal bays and inlets.

Behavior

Foot detail
Photo by corvidophile
Sepulveda Wildlife Area, Van Nuys, California

Diet

Their diet is mainly vegetarian and consists of underwater plants and algae. Will also take molluscs and aquatic insects, more often during the breeding season. Young chicks are fed mostly aquatic invertebrates. Feeds from the surface as well as diving.

Breeding

Nesting time in North America is April-July, with a peak in April-May. Nest is usually within 1-5 m of open water and is a large, floating platform of aquatic vegetation, built by both sexes. The clutch consists of 6-15 pinkish eggs, spotted with brown, laid at daily intervals. Incubation by both birds, starts with the 3rd-6th egg, so hatching is asynchronous. Chicks are precocial and leave the nest soon after hatching. Cared for by both parents and return to nest platform for brooding. Fed by parents for the first 2 weeks and become independent over the next 3-10 weeks.

Movements

Mainly migratory.

Vocalization

A variety of clucks, cackles, grunts, and other harsh notes.

References

  1. Identification Essay: American Coot (Fulica americana) and Caribbean Coot (F. caribaea). Southeastern Caribbean Birds (archive).
  2. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved November 2016)

Recommended Citation

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