American Coot
Fulica americana
Family Rallidae

Often mistaken for a duck, the American coot is the only member of the family Rallidae (which also includes the moorhens and gallinules) to range as far north as New England.

Identifying Traits (both sexes):

  • Sooty black body
  • Short, thick white bill with reddish ring near tip
  • White facial shield extends backwards from bill
  • Olive legs have lobed (not webbed) toes
  • Short, rounded wings and tail
  • Red eyes
  • Juvenile:  Lacks face shield, may be dull brown in places
  • Size: 30 cm (12”)
  • Weight: 630 g (1.4 lbs)

Voice: The American coot’s call is a harsh series of clucking noises, as well as a barrage of quick kuks.

Habitat: American coots live near water, and they frequently nest in marshes and reedy areas.  They prefer fresh water but can often be found in salt water bodies as well.

Range: The American coot lives year-round along the Atlantic seaboard from New York south, as well as in most of the southwestern U.S.  They are most often found in New England during the winter or on migration from their breeding range in Canada.

Interesting Facts: While coots are strong fliers, it takes a great deal of effort for them to get airborne.  Coots can often be seen flapping their wings and running on the water’s surface for ten or twenty feet before building up enough speed to become airborne.



Home | Glossary | Search | Help | About | References