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American Coot Fulica americana


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American Coot
credit: Mdf/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Rallidae, Rails, Gallinules, Coots view all from this family

Description ADULT Has essentially all dark plumage, darkest on head and neck; note white on outer undertail coverts. Bill and frontal shield are mainly white, except for dark subterminal band on bill and red patch on forehead shield; note the beady red eye. Legs are greenish yellow. In flight, note white trailing edge to otherwise dark, rounded wings. JUVENILE Has dark grayish brown upperparts and white on throat and front of neck. Bill is dull pink. Recalls an oversized winter plumage Pied-billed Grebe. Acquires adult-like plumage by first winter, but bill is pure white and red on forehead is absent.

Dimensions Length: 15" (38 cm)

Habitat Widespread and common on freshwater wetlands. Mostly a summer visitor to northern half of its range in the east, and a winter visitor further south, but present year-round near Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

Observation Tips Easy to observe.

Range Southeast, Great Lakes, Southwest, California, Texas, Western Canada, Plains, Alaska, Northwest, New England, Eastern Canada, Florida, Rocky Mountains, Mid-Atlantic

Voice Utters a loud kwoot call.

Discussion Dumpy waterbird with long, lobed toes that facilitate swimming. Feeds by upending or by making shallow dives, but also grazes waterside vegetation. In breeding season, constructs large mound nests of waterplants. Outside breeding season, often forms large flocks. When taking off from water, typically runs along surface, splashing its feet before finally getting airborne. Sexes are similar.