Weight 600-900 g
The Coot is a common sight throughout the U.K. and one of the easiest to recognise with black plumage and a distinctive white beak and vertical strike above the beak which earns it the title bald ( bald as a coot ) Its feet have distinctive lobed flaps of skin on the toes which act in the same way as webbed feet when swimming. Coot can be seen mainly on freshwater lakes, gravel pits, reservoirs, rivers and town park lakes when deep enough. Both male and male birds look the same , the juvenile bird is lighter in colour with a lighter coloured face and neck.
In early spring , late February to early March, Coots behaviour starts to change from their winter flocking to become aggressively territorial as the breeding season starts. Disputes with neighbours can turn into fights, birds using their sharp claws to strike at each other, sometimes causing injury. Most Coots do not breed until two years of age, so there can be a lot of immature birds to test the boundaries of territories. Coots build their nests in shallow water or occasionally on floating vegetation or tree stumps. The nest is constructed from leaves, twigs, bark, roots and reeds. The typical clutch of six eggs, maybe up to ten, is incubated by the female for three weeks with the male nearby. Coots usually only have one broad per year . Both parents take it in turn to feed the young sometimes wit the broad being split between the male and female. The aggressive nature of the Coot isn’t just reserved to outsiders, sometimes the Coot will turn on its own young and kill the weakest members of its own broad.
The coot is an omnivore, and will take a variety of small live prey including the eggs of other water birds, as well as algae, vegetation, seeds and fruit. It shows considerable variation in its feeding techniques, grazing on land or in the water.
Classified as green in the UK under birds of concern, as with most wildlife in the UK the Coot is protected under the wildlife and countryside act , 1981.
Curious if it is considered a mean bird. We have a phrase here in US ‘mean as an old coot’. Never knew there was a bird called a coot. Always thought of it as a dirty old man.
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