Eurasian Coot

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Common Name: Eurasian Coot
Scientific Name: Fulica atra

Size: 13-17 inches (32-42 cm); Wingspan: 23-28 inches (58-71 cm)

Habitat: Eurasia and Africa; most populations in warm and temperate regions are resident, often making nomadic dispersive movements according to changing water levels and seasonal rainfall. Populations in northern Eurasia are fully migratory however, migrating on a broad front through continental Europe and across the Sahara. Southward movements occur from mid-August to November, with the return passage occurring from late-February to May.

The species inhabits large, still or slow-flowing waters and shows a preference for shallow water with adjacent deeper water for diving, and muddy substrates, marginal, emergent, floating or submergent vegetation. It frequently exploits temporary pools and seasonally inundated marshes when breeding in Africa, and may extend to quiet estuaries or inshore waters in the winter. It generally avoids closely overgrown, narrowly confined and very shallow waters, and those overshadowed by trees or. If solitary the species roosts at sunset on small islets, mud banks, sandbanks, rocks in water, floating mats of vegetation, floating logs, or branches of trees over water, preferring to roost on open water, in shore vegetation or in meadows adjacent to water if in flocks.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 8,900,000-9,800,000 adult individuals. The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations are stable, fluctuating or have unknown trends. This species suffers disturbance and mortality from hunting, and is poisoned by ingesting lead shot. It is also threatened by oil and petroleum pollution and the Kaliningrad region, Russia, and by habitat degradation and loss due to agricultural drainage schemes in Pakistan, wetland drainage, peat-extraction, changing wetland management practices (decreased grazing and mowing in meadows leading to scrub over-growth) and the burning and mowing of reeds. The species is often drowned in freshwater fishing nets with mesh sizes greater than 5 cm in China, and suffers predation from American mink in eastern Europe.

The Eurasian Coot is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Diet: Omnivorous diet consisting of vegetable matter, such as algae, the vegetative pasts of aquatic and terrestrial plants (e.g. waterweeds, bulrushes, reeds and grasses), the seeds of waterweeds, sedges, water-lilies, grasses and cereal crops, club moss Selaginella and aquatic fungi. Animal matter in its diet includes mollusks, adult and larval insects (especially flies, caddisflies, Odonata, Lepidoptera, beetles and bugs), worms, leeches, shrimps, spiders, small fish, fish eggs, frogs, birds and bird eggs, and small mammals.

Nesting: Sexes were alike with males being larger than females. Adult coots are entirely black with the exception of a white frontal shield on the bill and forehead. It has yellowish legs and gray feet. Juveniles are paler than adults with a whitish breast, and lack the facial shield. The adult black plumage develops when about 3–4 months old and the white shield appears at about one year old.

Coots are noisy birds with a wide repertoire of crackling, explosive, or trumpeting calls, often given at night.

The species nests in dispersed solitary pairs, although it is largely gregarious with flocks, sometimes of several thousand individuals frequently forming during the. Adults undergo a post-breeding flightless molt period, with flocks of molting birds congregating from June-September. The species is diurnally active and roosts at sunset solitarily or in flocks.

The nest is a platform of vegetation that may be resting on the bottom of shallow water, floating or on a foundation of trampled plant matter in emergent vegetation. The species may also nest on artificial platforms, islands, rafts, tree stumps, tree forks or in bushes up to 3 m above the water. Up to 10 eggs are laid but nest predation from herons and gulls significantly reduce the amount of young who survive.

Cool Facts: The saying “Bald as a Coot” and "Old Coot" (circa 1400 AD) refers to the white patch on the beak and forehead of the coot.

Coots can be very brutal to their own young under pressure such as the lack of food. They will bite young that are begging for food and repeatedly do this until it stops begging and starves to death. If the begging continues, they may bite so hard that the chick is killed.

Coots are reluctant to fly and when taking off, runs across the water surface with much splashing. They do the same, but without actually flying, when travelling a short distance at speed in territorial disputes. As with many rails, its weak flight does not inspire confidence, but on migration, usually at night, it can cover surprisingly large distances. It bobs its head as it swims, and makes short dives from a little jump.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume 4: Geese Loons, Grebe & Coots

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