The American coot, also known as mud hen or marsh hen is a semi-aquatic migratory bird. These diurnal birds can be found abundantly across most of North America. In winters, they may be even found as far south as Panama. A lot of people tend to mistake the American coot (Fulica Americana) for a duck, however, it is one of the members of the rail or Rallidae family. The American coot can be identified by their white bill paired with a frontal shield of the same color, lobed toes, and a subtle red spot between their eyes.
While the males are significantly larger than the females, they mostly look alike. The juvenile American coot is brightly colored. Their diet mainly consists of aquatic vegetation such as algae, although these opportunistic omnivores will eat almost anything they can get their beak around such as fish, mollusks, or arthropods.
Like many other members of the Rallidae family, the American coot mostly inhabits wetlands and marshes; they can be even found in open water bodies such as lakes and rivers. While they typically prefer living in freshwater environments, they may temporarily reside in saltwater environments during the harsh winter months.
This article includes information like American coot habitat, American coot's predators, American coot range, American coot male vs female, and American coot mud hen.
Aquatic Vegetation, Arthropods, Insects, Mollusks, Tadpoles, Fish
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
6-9 eggs per clutch
How much do they weigh?
0.94-1.87 lbs (426- 848 g)
How long are they?
13-17 in (33-43 cm)
How tall are they?
What do they look like?
Dull Gray, White Bill
Dull Gray Feathers
What are their main threats?
Ospreys, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Marshlands, Sluggish Rivers, Lakes, Ponds
Quebec to South America
American Coot Interesting Facts
What type of animal is an American coot?
An American coot, Fulica Americana, is a migratory waterbird belonging to the family Rallidae, more commonly known as rails. American coots are the only members of the Rallidae family that can be said to have truly adapted to living a semi-aquatic lifestyle.
These North American birds migrate to warmer places depending on changes in the weather. These birds usually migrate at night.
What class of animal does an American coot belong to?
An American coot is a semi-aquatic, migratory bird belonging to class Aves.
How many American coots are there in the world?
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the conservation status for American coots is of Least Concern and they can be abundantly found across North America. It is estimated that there are nearly 6 million American coots. In many areas, they are even considered to be pests due to their destructive effects on crops.
Where does an American coot live?
American coot, scientific name Fulica Americana, is a water bird and can be most commonly found in North America near open water bodies such as wetlands, marshes, slow-moving rivers, lakes, and ponds. Usually, these birds prefer dwelling in freshwater environments although, during the winters they may take up temporary residence in saltwater environments.
These North American birds spend the majority of their lives in water, even laying their eggs on floating nests.
What is an American coot's habitat?
Since aquatic vegetation is a major portion of the American coot's diet, the American coot habitat is the one with an abundance of aquatic vegetation. They also build their nests on water. American coots are the only members of the entire Rallidae family who have truly adapted to living on the water. This can be evident from the way the American coot feet have evolved. The American coot's feet enable them to have good mobility on dry land, while also making them expert swimmers.
Who do American coots live with?
American coots live in large flocks that have been observed to number in thousands. As a matter of fact, coots are the only members of the Rallidae family that live in such large groups. They also have been observed exhibiting an array of intriguing collective formations such as synchronized swimming, single-file lines, and sequential take-offs.
How long does an American coot live?
On average, the American coot has a lifespan of around nine years. However, there has been evidence of an American coot surviving up to the age of 22 years.
How do they reproduce?
Provided they have a suitable territory, American coot pairs remain monogamous throughout their lives. Their mating season occurs during May and June. These birds have an elaborate courtship ritual comprising billing (the touching of bills), bowing, and nibbling. Usually, it is the males that initiate billing, however as the bond between a pair of male and female birds grows stronger, the females will also initiate billing. Once the bond between a pair is cemented, they begin looking for a suitable territory so that they can start mating and breeding. Securing a territory or a nesting makes the bond permanent for this freshwater bird.
American coots build floating nests on water. The nest is an elaborate raft that can disintegrate easily and require regular maintenance to remain afloat. A typical nest is about 12 in (ca. 30 cm) in diameter and can contain around up to nine eggs. The eggs are pink in color and covered with brown spots all over.
The North American coot is very defensive when it comes to protecting its eggs and may exhibit aggressive behavior if provoked. This helps in reducing the loss of eggs.
While many American coots form pairs that remain monogamous, others opt for an entirely different strategy. If a female is unable to secure a territory but succeeds in breeding, she lays her eggs in the nest of another pair. This phenomenon is known as brood parasitism.
Some female species may also engage in brood parasitism if the American coot nest built by them is destroyed.
However, American coots have evolved methods to identify and distinguish their own chicks from the parasite chicks. The parents tend to favor their chicks over the parasite chicks.
What is their conservation status?
American coots species are a fairly common sight across wetlands and marshes in North America and are quite widespread in their habitat. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the American coot's conservation status as that of Least Concern which means that they are not an endangered species.
American Coot Fun Facts
What do American coots look like?
American coots species are black or dark-gray birds that have a forehead and a bright-white bill. Their legs are yellow-green in color and if you get close, you can see that there is a small red patch on their forehead. They don't have webbed feet like ducks. Instead, they have lobed toes that help them kick through the water.
How cute are they?
Even though American coot species are not particularly popular for their cuteness, like most animals their young ones are immensely adorable. The chicks also sport a bright orange plume that fades away as they grow older.
How do they communicate?
American coots species are highly social animals and are very vocal. There are a wide variety of American coot calls and sounds for different situations. These birds can vocalize a diverse variety of clucking and grunting sounds. The males and females have been observed to use different types of vocalizations for similar situations. The American coot sound includes a variation of repeated calls used to communicate with one another.
How big is an American coot?
On average, an American coot bird, from the rail family, can measure up to 13-17 in (33-43 cm) in length with a wingspan of 23-28 in (58-71 cm). The American coot is nearly two-thirds the size of a mallard and less than half the size of a female bald eagle.
How fast can an American coot move?
Even though they have trouble getting airborne due to their short wingspan, once they become airborne, coots species can achieve speeds of up to 25-30 mph (40-48 kph).
How much does an American coot weigh?
Even though the male and female American coots species look similar in appearance, the males have a significantly higher body mass. The females weigh 0.94-1.87 lb (426- 848 g) while the larger males can weigh up to 1.27-1.87 lb (576-848 g).
What are the male and female names of the species?
There are no sex-specific names for American coots.
What would you call a baby American coot?
Baby American coots are referred to as chicks. American coot chicks have a distinctive bright orange plume that they lose over time.
What do they eat?
American coot diet mainly includes aquatic vegetation such as algae found in water bodies. Although, these birds are opportunistic omnivores and also feed on arthropods, eggs of other marsh birds, fish, and tadpoles. Often, this bird resorts to stealing food from others, this phenomenon is known as kleptoparasitism. During their breeding season, American coots have been observed to eat more aquatic insects and mollusks as this is a chief part of the chick's diet.
Are they friendly?
Like most birds, American coots will avoid interacting with humans. It is best to observe these birds from a distance.
Would they make a good pet?
Like most members of their family, the American coot is a wild bird and does not make a good pet. In many places, it is also illegal to own, harm, or capture a coot.
Did you know...
The chicks of the American coot have a bright orange plume. Even though the bright coloration makes this bird more susceptible to predation, the parents tend to favor the chicks with the brightest plumes. This plume usually fades away after six days. This bright plume in younglings is known as chick ornaments.
A group of American coots is referred to as a cover or a raft.
What makes American coots different from the rest of the rail family?
Most members of the Rallidae family are either weak at flying or have completely lost their ability to fly. The American coot, however, has not only retained its ability to fly but also has adapted to the aquatic lifestyle by evolving traits to be an excellent swimmer.
Are American coots scavengers?
American coots are not at all picky when it comes to food. They are extremely opportunistic eaters and will eat anything that they can get their bills around. While their primary source of nutrition is aquatic vegetation found in ponds, lakes, marshlands, and other similar water bodies, these omnivorous birds have also been observed diving for food such as fishes. Mollusks, worms, fishes, aquatic insects are also a major part of their diets. They have also been observed scavenging. These birds are not beyond stealing food from other animals, this behavior of stealing food is known as kleptoparasitism.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Radjah shelduck facts and yellow warbler facts.
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