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American Coot

Fulica americana

The American Coot is a member of the rail family (Rallidae), this bird’s swims and behaves like a waterfowl, and often congregates with ducks. Compared most other rails, these birds are bold and outgoing and often quarrelsome. They will aggressively chase each other and even other species off their chosen territory.

Their feet have partial webbing that does not connect the toes, as with true waterfowl. These lobes fold flat and provide the ability to walk on dry land and to not sink into soft mud as easily as some other birds. These lobes even help propel the coots while they swim, flexing behind the foot during the forward stroke and standing to the side to catch water for the power stroke.

It is a common practice for unpaired females, or females without territories to lay eggs in a neighbor’s nest. The nest owner uses a selective strategy (not fully understood) to eliminate the interloper’s offspring. The bazaar orange-red head feathers are lost after three weeks. Those who’ve studied this in nature believe the nest owners will weed out young chicks who age out of the redheaded phase too soon or at a different time than the rest of their nest-mates.

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