American Coot (Fulica americana)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Fulica Americana or otherwise known as the American coot is a common water bird, family of the Rallidae, and is about 12 inches in length with a wingspan of 25 inches. It is quite a large bird with relatively short wings and tail, and can often be seen swimming and diving in ponds or dams of water. When the American coot goes walking about it often flicks and cocks its short tail, revealing a white under tail. The bill is short and thick and the legs are yellow in color with toes that have lobed webbing. When you look at both the male and female you won’t notice much difference in appearance between the sexes.

There are quite a few differences between the adult and the juvenile. The adult bird has a beautiful white bill with a dark, reddish oval near the base of the bill than not lacks the ring near the tip. The adult’s head, neck, breast, back, and upper wings is a dark gray, brown color with the feathers on the under-belly being slightly lighter. The juvenile on the other hand, is a paler gray-brown color on the breast and back, upper wings and on the under parts of the bird. It has a bright red head and beak with orange colored plumes that come off the neck.

Another bird that is a similar species is the common Moorhen. It is similar in size and shape to the American coot but its bill is reddish in colour with a yellowish tip. It also has a white stripe on its flank and a brown back. The American coot is often mistaken for a duck, although its black body and white triangular beak, which looks similar to a chicken, makes it more easily distinguishable from a real duck. The bird sound of the American coot is a scratchy clucking noise followed by a row of “kuk-kuk-kuk” notes.

Their breeding grounds are in marshes from the southern part of Quebec to the Pacific coast of North America, and then as far south as the north part of South America. They choose a nesting area in between tall reeds in a well-concealed area. If water is available to the birds throughout winter then they will not migrate, but if this is not the case they will migrate to northern areas or to southern British Columbia and United States.

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