Nature Table: The Coot

Coots are among the most easily identified water birds with a dark, slate-grey body, an ivory beak topped by a distinct white frontal shield and yellow-green legs with over-sized, lobed toes.

They are slightly larger than water hens. At this time of year they are pugnaciously territorial. They build a floating nest, usually in a reed bed, and the male, often backed up by the female, defends it and the surrounding area. The result is often a noisy fight involving much splashing if another coot comes too near. The territories are usually larger than they need to be, which means a small lake only has space for one pair.

They are vegetarians, eating water weeds and algae, though when they dive to forage for these they are clumsier than water hens.

They are also rather clumsy fliers, requiring a long take-off run with their feet trailing in the water. In winter coots cease being territorial and become quite sociable, often forming large flocks which move to the coast if the weather gets frosty.


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