Sunday, August 28, 2011

American Coot

If a chicken, a small heron, a duck, and a piece of charcoal were combined in some sort of government funded science experiment, it would likely create the American Coot.
At first glance, these birds don't have a lot going on. Their interesting lobed feet are seldom visible, since they're usually swimming, and their entire body is a slate-gray to black. They usually keep to themselves, and are content to let the ducks have first pick of the bread bits tossed their way.
However, their forehead shields do make for a bit of a statement and while I have no idea what they are actually for, they do serve to instantly identify the Coot from Moorhens, Gallinules, or Rails.
When reviewing these otherwise simple photos though, I was struck by the calmness, pleasantly, and what I could only describe as the bird version of femininity visible with the Coot's face.

You can see how, unlike on Grebes or Cormorants, the Coot's oily feathers a pretty waterproof. 

This Coot was at Encanto Park and provided me with a nice opportunity to photograph these funny birds out of water. The Coot's oversized feet have lobed toes which seem to serve as compromises between the fully palmated feet found on ducks and normal, non-palmated anisodactylic feet found on most birds. They seem to work pretty well for swimming, but they might've gotten short-changed on their terrestrial application. However Coot's don't spend much time ashore apart from nesting, so they seem to get along well enough.

Here are some more recent Coot-out-of-water photos.

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