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Cruisin’ Coot and Grebe

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.


Grebe (left) Coot (right)



Pied-Billed Grebe


Comments on: "Cruisin’ Coot and Grebe" (7)

  1. I am so sorry about your friend! We have never seen any coots, and your information is very good. It seems that you have described their habits and personality in a concise and interesting way. They are kind of humerous looking, but maybe that’s just in comparison with ducks. They kind of look like a duck that’s eaten something sour.

  2. Oh Linda, I am sorry to hear of the death of your friend. She obviously was very special to you…

    I don’t know a thing about coots –so was glad to read your interesting info about them… I would have just called them a ‘duck’… ha

    Have a wonderful day.

    • Hi Betsy, Thanks for your sweet thoughts. Yes Maddie was a great boss and mentor when I was first starting out in my first career in municipal recreation and parks. Coots are really interesting due to their unusual looks and behavior. They resemble both chickens and ducks and dive like a duck. They also whistle like a bird (which is exactly what they really are). Have an outstanding day tomorrow!

  3. Very interesting post. I don’t think I have ever seen a coot. I’m sorry about your friend. It sounds like she was a very special person.

    • Hi Kateri, Thanks so much for your nice words about my late friend. She was a great lady. Coots are really neat birds and I was looking forward to their return. They are migratory here and have come down form your more Northern part of the country. Have a wonderful day tomorrow!

  4. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

    We also have coots that stop in for a visit sometimes. I love to listen to them as they float through a riffle on the river.. They float down and then fly back up, over and over.

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