December 15, 2011

American Coot

“Coot” 1. A dark-gray water dwelling bird resembling a duck 2. A foolish old man

This funny, quarrelsome, diving water bird that frequents ponds and wetlands is the American Coot. Not actually a duck, the coot is more closely related to a Rail. With a sleek blue-black back (appearing dark at a distance) that coot paddles and dives in freshwater, swimming with its signature head trust motion like a wind-up toy. The Coot is one of the most rewarding discoveries for the beginner birdwatcher because it lends itself to identification even at distance and often without the help of binoculars. Watch for the funny motion of these birds, neck thrusting, head held forward, and squat body. Though often feeding amongst other ducks Coots lack the curvy shape of a duck and, like some species of ducks, feeds by diving under water to catch small fish, crustaceans, or to forage for aquatic plants. Keep an eye on your local wetland and you may turn up one of these foolish old men.

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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

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