American Coot

Fulica americana

Summary 7

The American Coot (Fulica americana) (a.k.a. mud hen) is a bird of the family Rallidae. Though commonly mistaken to be ducks, American Coots belong to a distinct order. Unlike the webbed feet of ducks, coots have broad, lobed scales on their lower legs and toes that fold back with each step in order to facilitate walking on dry land. Coots live near water, typically inhabiting wetlands and open water bodies in North America. Groups of coots...

Fulica americana 8

A familiar duck-like waterbird, the American Coot (13-16 inches) is most easily identified by its dark gray body, white bill, and red frontal “shield” on forehead. Other field marks include red eyes, yellow legs with lobed feet, and a white patch underneath the tail. Male and female American Coots are similar to one another in all seasons. The American Coot breeds widely in the northern and western United States and southern Canada, as well as locally further south and east. Many northern birds migrate south for the winter, when they may be found widely in the southeastern U.S., in the desert southwest, and along the coasts of Mexico and Central America. Birds breeding in the southern part of this species’ range, as well as populations in central Mexico and in the West Indies, are non-migratory. American Coots breed in relatively deep, well-vegetated freshwater wetlands. Wintering birds may occur on freshwater marshes, and may also venture into brackish or salt water lagoons, bays, and estuaries. This species primarily eats aquatic plant material. American Coots may be observed feeding by picking plant matter off of the surface or by submerging their heads to feed on underwater plants. This species may also be observed walking on the shore or running along the surface of the water while attempting to become airborne. American Coots are primarily active during the day; however, this species does migrate at night.

Threat Status: Least concern

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Jack Wolf, some rights reserved (CC BY-ND),
  2. (c) Kevin Rolle, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  3. (c) 1999 California Academy of Sciences, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  4. (c) Michael Rosenberg, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  5. (c) Jennifer Rycenga, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  6. (c) Thomas Zedrick, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  7. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  8. (c) Unknown, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),

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