Key facts

Scientific name: Fulica atra

Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 31,000 pairs

Wintering birds: 190,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 36 – 38 cm

Wingspan: 70 – 80 cm

Weight: 600 – 1,000 g


Male and female adult coots look similar with dark grey plumage and a black head. The underwing is paler and the secondary flight feathers have white tips.

Coots have a white shield on top of their heads and their beaks are pale pink. They have red eyes and yellow legs.

Coot chicks are black with some yellow down around the head and a red bare crown.


Coots build their nests in shallow water or occasionally on floating vegetation or tree stumps. The nest is constructed from leaves, twigs, bark, roots and reeds.

Coots lay 6-10 eggs which are smooth and glossy buff coloured with dark brown spots. Incubation lasts around 21-26 days.

Coot chicks are precocial but stay in the nest for up to 4 days. After about 4 weeks they are able to dive and can feed themselves although both parents will continue to feed them for up to 2 months after hatching.


Coots are omnivorous and feed mainly on vegetable matter such as shoots and seeds but they will also eat worms, leeches, snails, shrimps and insects. They may occasionally eat fish, small amphibians and small mammals.


Where to see them

Coots can be seen all year round across the UK except in the far north and west of Scotland.

They are found on freshwater lakes, reservoirs and rivers as well as in park lakes if they are deep enough. They are sometimes found offshore if inland water is frozen over.


Albert Lastukhin/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Coots rely on leg power to help them take off by running along the surface of the water in a process called “spattering”.

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