|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Coot (Fulica atra).|
The Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra), or just Coot, is a
member of the rail and crake bird family, the Rallidae.
It breeds across much of the Old World on freshwater
lakes and ponds. It is resident in the milder parts of
its range, but migrates further south and west from
much of Asia in winter as the waters freeze.
The Coot is much less secretive than most of the rail
family, and can be seen swimming on open water or
walking across waterside grasslands. It is an
aggressive species, and strongly territorial during
the breeding season.
It is reluctant to fly and when taking off runs across
the water surface with much splashing. They do the
same, but without actually flying, when travelling a
short distance at speed (to escape a rival, for
example, or to dispute possession of a choice morsel).
As with many rails, its weak flight does not inspire
confidence, but on migration, usually at night, it can
cover surprisingly large distances. It bobs its head
as it swims, and makes short dives from a little jump.
It is largely black except for the white facial shield
(which gave rise to the phrase "as bald as a coot").
As a swimming species, the Coot has partial webbing on
its long strong toes. (See illustration below.) The
juvenile is paler than the adult, has a whitish
breast, and lacks the facial shield; the adult black
plumage develops when about 3-4 months old, but the
white shield is only fully developed at about one year
old, some time later. The bird in the photo (right) is
an immature at this stage, about 4-10 months old.
This species builds a nest of dead reeds near the
water's edge, laying up to 10 eggs.
The Coot is an omnivore, and will take a variety of
small live prey including the eggs of other water
This is a noisy bird with a wide repertoire of
crackling, explosive or trumpeting calls, often given
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