Thu Mar 2023

American Coot

I may catch a fleeting glance of a coot sweeping by our shore once in a winter. Here was one frolicking with Mallards and Hooded Mergansers – all drawn excitedly to the shallows, no doubt, by the odd chance of a quick meal.

American Coots are duck-like in appearance and habits, but fall into the order, Gruiformes, in company with cranes, rails and others. It sports black plumage and a conical white bill, and dives primarily for aquatic plants. Normally gregarious, it is often seen on water or land in large, tight flocks, known as “covers” or “rafts.”

The light on the subject was poor, and it’s hard to make out details in the photos, but the prominent red shield between the eyes appears to be missing, suggesting this is a first-year bird. I couldn’t tell if was a male or female because they’re similar in appearance (although the males are larger).

I took this series while photographing Common Mergansers, and didn’t realize until later that I had caught a coot as well. The photos were taken in the early morning of December 24, 2012. The time and description is noted under each.