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American Coot

Fulica americana

The American coot is a dark, duck-like bird with a white bill. (Mdf/Wikimedia Commons)
The American coot is a dark, duck-like bird with a white bill. (Mdf/Wikimedia Commons)

The American coot is a dark, duck-like bird with a white bill. It visits the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, creeks and wetlands from autumn through spring.

Appearance:

  • Dark, grayish-black body
  • White, chicken-like bill with black on the tip and a red area on the forehead
  • Red eyes
  • White patches under the tail
  • Greenish or yellowish legs
  • Large feet with lobed toes
  • Grows to 16 inches

Habitat:

  • Found on the fresh and brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, creeks, wetlands and marshes
  • Also lives on open lakes, ponds and reservoirs
  • Often forms flocks on the water

Range:

  • Visits the Chesapeake Bay watershed from autumn through spring
  • Found both inland and near the shore
  • Migrates to its western and northern breeding grounds in spring

Feeding:

  • Feeds mostly on bay grasses such as redhead grass, sago pondweed and wild celery
  • Will also eat small fish, insects and invertebrates
  • Feeds by diving for its food in deeper waters or “tipping up” its tail and submerging its head underwater in shallow waters

Predators:

  • Ospreys and bald eagles prey upon coots

Voice:

  • Makes short croaks, clucks and cackles that sound like kuk-kuk-kuk

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Does not breed in the Bay region
  • Breeds in the Midwestern and western United States and in southwestern Canada
  • Can live to 9 years old

Other Facts:

  • Although they look like ducks, coots are actually a type of rail
  • Easily identified by its strange behavior of bobbing its head back and forth while swimming
  • Better adapted to living in the water than many other birds

Sources and Additional Information:

Places:




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