American Coots are not ducks but are water birds that are members of the Rail family of birds. They do closely resemble diving ducks. They have dark grey to light black bodies with the same shade of black heads and a white chicken-like beak or bill. They also have really enormous feet that are somewhere between a chicken’s and a duck’s in look. Coots have a slightly white slender tip of the tail feathers. This white coloring is really quite slight. The American Coots are Fall and Winter visitors here on the lake. I have been eagerly awaiting their arrival for several weeks now. So far as of yesterday (10-15-10 when I took the pictures), I have just seen the one Coot, who may be a scout bird. If this one Coot is not a scout, it means that the main flock is indeed here but I just have not seen it because it is on the other arm of our lake. The Coots have a slight whistling call and don’t quack. They are pretty shy. They eat lake weeds primarily. They do not come up on the shore very much but prefer to paddle around in shallow areas. I saw a huge number of the Coots out on the partially frozen lake last January. The Coots usually stay around until mid to late March and then are on the way elsewhere, usually up North. I was slightly amused to see that paddling right around the Coot was a single Pied-Billed Grebe (part of that big flock visiting here in recent days). In fact, that Grebe seemed to be fairly aggressive toward the Coot! Please click on the thumbnail version to see the larger picture.
On a very personal and one time only note, today’s post is in memory of my friend and professional mentor from the City of Sacramento, CA, Madeline Craveiro, who passed away on Aug. 29, 2010 at age 87. She was my boss, friend, and inspired my own interest in birds. (I just learned of her passing yesterday). R.I.P. Maddie.