Coots

Coots are medium-sized water birds that are members of the rail family Rallidae. They are close relatives of the moorhen.

The greatest species variety is in South America. They are common in Europe and North America.

The American Coots have reached Great Britain and Ireland on rare occasions. The migratory species travel at night.

A flock of coots is known in the US as a cover

Description

Coots have a predominantly black plumage with a prominent frontal shields or other decoration on the forehead, and colored bills, and many, but not all, have white on the under tail.

Like other rails, they have lobed toes.

They tend to have short, rounded wings and are weak fliers, although northern species are nevertheless capable of covering long distances.

Coots have strong legs and can walk and run vigorously. Their long toes are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces.

Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra

Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra

Diet / Feeding

These birds are omnivorous, taking mainly plant material, but also small animals and eggs.

Species in taxonomic order

  • Fulica cristata Gmelin, 1789 – Red-knobbed Coot (Africa)
  • Fulica atra Linnaeus, 1758 – Eurasian Coot or Common Coot
  • Fulica alai Peale, 1848 – Hawaiian Coot or ʻAlae keʻokeʻo
  • Fulica americana Gmelin, 1789 – American Coot
  • Fulica caribaea Ridgway, 1884 – Caribbean Coot
  • Fulica leucoptera Vieillot, 1817 – White-winged Coot (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Falkland Islands, Paraguay, Uruguay)
  • Fulica ardesiaca Tschudi, 1843 – Slate-colored Coot (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru)
  • Fulica armillata Vieillot, 1817 – Red-gartered Coot (Argentina, southern Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay)
  • Fulica rufifrons Philppi and Landbeck, 1861 – Red-fronted Coot (Argentina, southern Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, southern Peru, Uruguay)
  • Fulica gigantea Eydoux and Souleyet, 1841 – Giant Coot (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru)
  • Fulica cornuta Bonaparte, 1853 – Horned Coot (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile)
  • Fulica newtoni Milne-Edwards, 1867 – Mascarene Coot (extinct, c.1700)
  • Fulica chathamensis – Chatham Island Coot (prehistoric)
  • Fulica prisca Hamilton, 1893 – New Zealand Coot (prehistoric)
  • Fulica infelix Brodkorb, 1961 (fossil: Early Pliocene of Juntura, Malheur County, Oregon, USA)
  • Fulica shufeldti (fossil: Pleistocene of North America) – possibly a subspecies of Fulica americana; formerly F. minor
Red-knobbed Coot or Crested Coot (Fulica cristata)
Photo of author

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