Coot

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Coot
Eurasian Coot
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Fulica
Linnaeus, 1758
Species

For extinct and prehistoric species, see article text

Coots are medium-sized water birds that are members of the Rallidae (rail) family. They constitute the genus Fulica. Coots have predominantly black plumage, and—unlike many rails—they are usually easy to see, often swimming in open water. They are close relatives of the moorhen.

Description

Coots have prominent frontal shields or other decoration on the forehead, with red to dark red eyes and coloured bills. Many, but not all, have white on the under tail. The featherless shield gave rise to the expression "as bald as a coot," which the Oxford English Dictionary cites in use as early as 1430. Like other rails, they have long, lobed toes that are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. Coots have strong legs and can walk and run vigorously. They tend to have short, rounded wings and are weak fliers, though northern species nevertheless can cover long distances.

Distribution and habitat

The greatest species variety occurs in South America, and the genus likely originated there. They are common in Europe and North America.1 Coot species that migrate do so at night. The American Coot has been observed rarely in Britain and Ireland.

Ecology and behavior

Coots are omnivorous, eating mainly plant material, but also small animals and eggs. They are aggressively territorial during the breeding season, but are otherwise often found in sizeable flocks on the shallow vegetated lakes they prefer.

At least some coots have difficulty feeding a large family of hatchlings on the tiny shrimp and insects that they collect. So after about three days they start attacking their own chicks when they beg for food. After a short while, these attacks concentrate on the weaker chicks, who eventually give up begging and die. The coot may eventually raise only two or three out of nine hatchlings.2

A group of coots may be referred to as a covert3 or cover.4

Species

Extinct species

Photo gallery

References

  1. ^ Olson, Storrs L. (1974). "The Pleistocene Rails of North America". Museum of Natural History.
  2. ^ Life of Birds, David Attenborough. The Problems of Parenthood. 10:20.
  3. ^ "What do you call a group of ...?". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Baltimore Bird Club. Group Name for Birds: A Partial List". Retrieved 2007-06-03. 

External links

 
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