Coots are medium-sized water birds that are members of the rail family Rallidae. They constitute the genus Fulica. Coots have predominantly black plumage, and—unlike many rails—they are usually easy to see, often swimming in open water. They are close relatives of the moorhen.

They have prominent frontal shields or other decoration on the forehead, and coloured bills, and many, but not all, have white on the under tail. Like other rails, they have lobed toes. The featherless shield gave rise to the expression "as bald as a coot," which the Oxford English Dictionary cites in use as early as 1430. A group of coots may be referred to as a covert[1] or cover.[2]

They tend to have short, rounded wings and are weak fliers, though northern species nevertheless can cover long distances—the American Coot has reached Britain and Ireland on rare occasions. Coot species that migrate do so at night. Coots can walk and run vigorously on strong legs, and have long toes that are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces.

These birds are omnivorous, eating mainly plant material, but also small animals and eggs. They are aggressively territorial during the breeding season, but are otherwise often found in sizeable flocks on the shallow vegetated lakes they prefer.

At least some Coots have difficulty feeding a large family of fledglings on the tiny shrimp and insects that they collect. So after about three days they start attacking their own chicks when they beg for food. After a short while, these attacks concentrate on the weaker chicks, who eventually give up begging and die. The coot may eventually raise only two or three out of nine fledglings.[3]

Species in taxonomic order

Photo gallery


  1. ^ "What do you call a group of ...?". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "Baltimore Bird Club. Group Name for Birds: A Partial List". Retrieved 2007-06-03. 
  3. ^ Life of Birds, David Attenborough. The Problems of Parenthood. 10:20.

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