Mud hen, Marsh hen, Pouldeau
The American coot (Fulica americana) is a bird commonly mistaken for ducks. It is only distantly related to ducks and belongs to a separate 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 in groups that are called covers or rafts.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
An omnivore is an animal that has the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Obtaining energy and nutrients from plant and ani...
Semiaquatic animals are those that are primarily or partly terrestrial but that spend a large amount of time swimming or otherwise occupied in wate...
Waterfowl are certain wildfowl of the order Anseriformes, especially members of the family Anatidae, which includes ducks, geese, and swans. They ...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Monogamy is a form of relationship in which both the male and the female has only one partner. This pair may cohabitate in an area or territory for...
Flocking birds are those that tend to gather to forage or travel collectively. Avian flocks are typically associated with migration. Flocking also ...
Partial migration is when within a migratory species or even within a single population, some individuals migrate while others do not.
Adults American coots have a short, thick, white bill and white frontal shield, which usually has a reddish-brown spot near the top of the bill between the eyes. Males and females look alike, but females are smaller. Juvenile birds have olive-brown crowns and gray bodies. They become adult-colored around 4 months of age.
In summer, American coots are found in New York and Massachusetts in the northern United States, and in southern Canada. During winter, they occur in the southern United States from Florida to California. Individuals have been sighted as far as Alaska in the north and South America in the south, always along waterways. Being freshwater birds, they live in the shallow parts of freshwater ponds, lakes, or marshes, and sometimes in brackish water. They occasionally live in manmade ponds in parks and golf courses.
American coots are diurnal social birds that live in flocks and are the only rail family members to live in groups. These birds can make a wide range of noises, from clucking to grunting, to communicate with each other and also to threaten predators. On two occasions a coot will splash: in the mating season for the purpose of attracting attention, and also to discourage predators. Ospreys (a type of hawk) are their main predator. Since this species is more adapted to living on water than other birds, it is not possible for them to take off from a "dead start" like other birds, which can take flight when startled. Instead, in order to become airborne, they need to take a running start over the water. American coots are migratory, and they migrate as a flock, but their migration is weather-based and therefore is highly irregular.
American coots are omnivorous. They eat invertebrates, algae, plants, and small vertebrates such as fish and tadpoles, occasionally, eggs of other marsh birds, also sometimes stealing food from ducks.
American coots are monogamous and pairs stay together for life. The mating process starts with a great show. Male and female both start off displaying in front of each other and calling to one another, while they splash about. The mating process starts on the water and finishes on the land. Breeding occurs around May and June. Both adults construct a nest of about 35cm across. Nests are at the edge of the reed cover at the pond’s edge. They have a ramp leading into the water for easier access for the young. 8 to 10 pink eggs with brown spots are laid at a time. Both parents incubate the eggs, for around 21 to 25 days. They share the tasks of feeding and teaching the young, dividing the hatchlings between them. After a month, the young can dive for food, and when they are 5 to 6 weeks old they can fly, becoming fully independent at about 2 months.
Although now widespread and abundant, the American coot suffered huge declines during the late 18th century and the early 19th century due to hunting and loss of wetland in its main breeding areas in the mid-west of the United States and in east-central Canada. This species in some areas is now regarded as an agricultural pest, such as on golf courses and in rice fields, and, being a listed game bird, about 8,000 are killed each year in Canada and about 880,000 in the United States.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total American coot population size is estimated at 6 million individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, but its numbers today are decreasing.
American coots affect the populations of aquatic plants and invertebrates that they eat. They also serve as prey for predators which share their habitats.