Critter Corner - American
DID YOU KNOW:
The American Coot is a duck-like swimmer, but it looks very
different from a duck. It has a smaller head, a white,
cone-shaped bill and a forehead shield. The coot swims
with its head bobbing up and down. It makes a great splash and splatter when it enters or leaves the water.
are omnivores, which means they eat plants and animals. In
winter they eat mainly aquatic plants and seeds; in summer they
add insects to the menu. They also eat frogs, snails, fish
and young ducklings. The coot usually dives underwater for
food but also feeds on land.
A coot mm lays eight to 12 eggs in he spring. Both mom and
dad incubate the eggs and help care for the babies when they
hatch. Mom and dad bring insects to the downy chicks for
he first few days and then the chicks follow their parents
around as they continue to feed the babies for the first month.
After that, hey can find food on their own but still hang out
with their parents a few more weeks.
Coots are spring and summer residents of our area and then they
migrate south for the winter. Coots depend on marshes,
ponds and lakes where they can find food. They build their
nests on grasses, reeds or branches hanging over water.
are small, aggressive birds. They are even food thieves.
After diving for food, the coot returns to he surface to eat its
catch. Sometimes, before it gets a chance to swallow,
another coot might steal the food right from its bill.
This food stealing behavior is very common in large groups.
Coots use their feet as weapons when fighting for food and
The coot's toes have broad pads, or lobes that help it swim
as easily as a duck. On land, the pads keep the coot
from sinking in the mud.
A coot has to run across the water for some distance before
it can get airborne!
To learn more about
(Photo credits: Coot walking
from US Fish and Wildlife Service; Coot swimming from National
Parks Service; Coot babies in nest from Animal Diversity Web;
Coot flock from Fermi National Lab)