The Coots are the birds which form the genus Fulica
which is part of the Rallidae family. There are generally accepted
to be 11 different species of coot.
When used on its own, just the single word Coot
normally refers to one particular species, the Eurasian Coot
(Fulica atra). The Coot is quite common. It extends from Central
and Eastern Europe and North Africa to Asia and Siberia, and also inhabits
This bird has a black plumage, a white bill which
is quite pointed, and a white head sheild on its forehead. It reaches
a length of around 38 cm. Male animals, identifiable by the larger head
sheild, reach a weight of up to 600 grams. The head shield itself
is the origin of the unfortunate term "bald as a coot". The females
can attain a weight of up to 800 grams.
Coots are good at floating and diving in the waters.
They constantly and easily move between land and water. Whilst on
land they move a little awkwardly yet with a good measure of elegance.
On their feet extraordinary lobed membranes exist between their toes.
This feature is thought to aid in swimming, in addition to being helpful
when walking over wet, muddy or slimy surfaces. They have a sure but somewhat
Their habitat is large ponds, lakes or rivers with
very gently flowing waters. A reed belt with many aquatic plants
is preferred. Coots will search for their food both in and under the water,
on the banks and, more rarely further inshore. They feed upon aquatic
plants and algae. Small fish and other small animals, for example
crustaceans, molluscs and insects also form part of the diet.
The nest is built among reeds. Alternatively
a floating straw island is lain in the water, fixed to aquatic plants to
ensure it does not float away with any current that may exist. Three
to twelve yellowish eggs are laid. The female incubates these, helped
by the male, over a period of 21 to 23 days. The breeding's pair
defends the area around the chicks and the nest during the time that the
chicks are growing up. The chicks are tended to in the nest for 55
to 60 days. Initially the chicks are a grey-black with a reddish
head, the young birds later having an almost white chest and no visible
head shield. After about 8 weeks the chicks are able to fly.
Similar to ducks, swans and sea gulls, with which
it often shares the habitat, coots are not particularly shy of humans.
However they are birds of a timid and shrewd nature. Threatened by any
danger, they all gather together beside each other in the water, and strike
the water with the ends of their wings in an almost crazy fashion to try
to scare away the enemy.
Those coots who live in colder regions migrate
in winter towards the south. Wintering takes place in groups
on ice-free waters, together with other species of water birds.