American Coot

American Coots swimming at Boomer Lake

The American coot is a water bird that is quite common on Boomer Lake from mid-fall through mid-to-late spring (sometimes there are one or two that may stay the year). While one would think that they’re members of the duck family–they’re actually a rail species that prefers to be out on the water instead of being in the weeds.

This is a bird that I will usually see on almost all of my walks during mid-fall through late spring. Sometimes I see them right away in the first cove I go to, other times it may be when I’m walking across the bridge on my way back home.

These are birds that are dark-gray to black in color, with a bright white beak with white feathers towards the back-end as well. In side they’re somewhere between a robin and a crow (think small chicken), with tiny tails, short wings, and large feet.

American coot swimming at Boomer Lake

American Coots at Boomer Lake

While slightly difficult to tell with this picture–they also have yellow-green legs, which you can spot when they’re sitting on logs or moving around on land.

American coots are found throughout most of North America (with the exception of Alaska, parts of Canada, northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Hawaii–there is an Hawaiian coot, that looks similar but is a different species entirely).

American coot migration map. Map (c) birds of the world

While they can be found throughout a good portion of the United States, their main breeding range is within the north-central states, plus parts of Canada (which means a road trip if I want to get a picture of one with the young).

They will migrate to the southern states (and further south to Central America) during the winter, though they can also be found year-round in parts of Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and the western coast of the US).

Coots are opportunistic omnivores, whose diet includes aquatic plants (algae, duckweed, ellgrass, water lilies, hydrilla, and cattails to name a few plants) and also insects, crustaceans, snails, tadpoles, and even salamanders.

American coot swimming off with ‘lunch’

Some other facts about American coots:

They build ‘floating nests’ on the water or at the very edge of the water (so the young have easy access to the water after hatching).

The young are able to leave the nest within six hours of hatching.

They are also occasionally brood parasites–where they will lay their eggs in the nest of other coots, redheads, cinnamon teals, and Franklin’s gulls’ nests.

Since they’re a ‘common and widespread’ species, scientists are now starting to monitor them as a ‘gauge’ for local environments.

Photography goal: Since they don’t breed within Oklahoma, it would be either moving to an area of the country where they do breed (or at least live year-round), or a road-trip (to same said areas) to be able to get a picture of adults with the young, and possibly nesting as well.