Coot

Coot

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

What do coots look like?

Coots have a black body overall, although it can appear dark grey in certain lights. The secondary flight feathers have white tips and the underwing is pale grey.

The head is black with a conspicuous white shield on the top of the face. The bill is pale pink, the eyes are deep red, and the legs are yellowy-green, and the lobed feet are grey. Males and females are similar, but in breeding plumage the male has a wider shield than the female.

Juvenile coots are duller and paler than the adults and have a dark brown body with a pale foreneck and upper breast.

How do coots breed?

Coots are monogamous and breed from March to July. They produce 2 broods a season. They build their nests in shallow water or occasionally on floating vegetation or tree stumps, resting on the base of trampled plants. The bulky nest is constructed from leaves, twigs, bark, roots, and reeds.

Coots lay 6-10 smooth, glossy, buff-coloured eggs with dark brown spots which are incubated by both parents for 21-26 days. Coot chicks are precocial and covered in black down with some yellow around the head and a bare, red crown. They are brooded at the nest for 3-4 days and are fed by both parents, sometimes helped by older chicks from a previous brood.

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. They fledge at about 2 months after hatching and can fly at about 8-11 weeks, but will remain near the nest for 14 weeks and will help defend the territory. They reach sexual maturity at 1 year.

What do coots eat?

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.

Coot

Where can I see coots ?

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.

What do coots sound like?

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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