Bird Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Fulica americana
Common Coot
American Coot


Distinguishing Features - Also called the "mudhen", this water bird looks like a cross between a duck and a chicken, but it belongs to the Rail family. Its toes have lobed or "scalloped" edges that produce very effective paddles for swimming and diving.

Length: 33 - 40 cm. Sexes similar. Overall colouration: dark slate on body, becoming black on head and neck. Wing edged narrowly in white; outer under-tail coverts, white, inner ones, blackish. Bill, whitish with a hint of chestnut at tip.

Common Coot Habitat

Common through southern Canada coast-to-coast, southward throughout the U.S. to Mexico and West Indies; mainly in freshwater marshes and ponds, lakes and slow-moving rivers. Nesting in ponds and marshes, the nest is hidden in the cattails or reeds or made of a floating mass of vegetation.


The diet consists of mainly of aquatic vegetation and seeds; also small fish, water-insects, worms, and snails.


The toes have lobed or "scalloped" edges that produce very effective paddles for swimming and diving. Weak flyers, coots require a take-off run, on land or water, to get airborne and prefer to land in water. Usually gregarious, coots frequently live in parks and on golf courses, as well as sumps and natural ponds, where they feed on aquatic vegetation, "dabbling" and diving. In recreation areas they usually are a nuisance because of the excrement they spread on the lawn or golf greens.

The Common Coot is similar to the European Coot Fulica atra which breeds across Eurasia and is sometimes spotted in Labrador.

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