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Posts tagged ‘Rails’

Coots, Common Gallinules “Moorhens”, and Purple Gallinules

Purple Gallinule

Coots, Common Moorhens, and Purple Gallinules are seen in The Villages, FL on occasion and mostly in the shallow marshes or prairies.  I often spot these birds at the Sharon Rose Wiechens Nature Preserve.  The Coots are migratory and usually seen in the Winter here and are often on Lake Sumter in large numbers.  The Moorhens and Purple Gallinules are year around resident birds with the Moorhens being a lot more commonly seen (pardon the pun).

The Coots are a charcoal black with a white face for both of the sexes.  The Purple Gallinules are a vivid blue and purple with a yellow blue and red bill.  The Common Gallinule or Moorhen, resembles the coot but has a red face and the females are brown with the red face.  The Coots, Common Moorhens and Purple Gallinules all are Rails.  These birds have a loud cry when alarmed and also sound a bit like a chicken clucking when in their normal communication mode.  Please click on the thumbnail image to see the slightly larger version of the picture.

Purple Gallinule

Male Common Moorhen or Common Gallinule

Hen Common Gallinule or Moorhen



Coots with a Moorhen


A Coot Comes to Visit the Pond

I have never seen any coots here on the little farm pond before.  Yesterday afternoon I was exploring the far end of the property on the pond shoreline and saw a single American  Coot paddling around in the muddy reeds.  Coots are not ducks even though they look a lot like them.  The coots have a large white beak and also have toed feet with webbing like a duck.  A mixture of duck and chicken-like bird characteristics.  Coots are members of the Rail family of birds.  Coots are chicken or duck-sized birds.  They paddle on ponds, lakes and slow rivers, fly, and also stroll around on the shore.

I had a small flock of coots graze on my front lawn last year at the lake house.  Coots eat water plants, grasses, and grains.  They like to dive under the water to seek out tender aquatic plants for their meal.  They also dive to avoid predators.  Coots are themselves favored as a meal by Bald Eagles, Osprey, and most kinds of Hawks.  That is one reason why the Bald Eagles are in the Crossville, TN area during the winter months along larger lakes.  Please click on the thumbnail image to see the larger photo.  Enjoy!

The Coots are Back!

It is the time of year when many birds are migrating to their Winter homes.  I am always happy to see the return of the American Coots.  Coots are medium-sized water birds that resemble a cross between a duck and a chicken.  They love to dive for lake weeds and also eat seeds and grass.  The Coots are black with a white beak.  The Coots have large webbed, clawed feet.  The Coots also are great at flying.  They tend to be social and not terribly afraid of people.  Their chief predator is the Bald Eagle.  I only saw a pair of the Coots but those two were likely “Scouts” who fly ahead of the main flock to find safe and suitable lakes to land on.  The Coots are here in Cumberland County, TN from about late October through early April.

I have recently made a move from my lake home to a nearby small plot of land that also is near fresh water.  My new home has wildlife which I will take pictures of.  Additionally I will be having a large vegetable garden here at my new property next Spring and Summer.  I will occasionally be talking gardening on my posts but the focus will again mainly be wildlife watching.  Today’s post reflects pictures I took a few days ago on at the lake front home (as will several in coming days).  Please click on the thumbnail image to see the larger picture.  Enjoy!  Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Coots Grazing, Taking Wing to the Water and Paddling in a Flock

The American Coots have been here on the lake now for several weeks.  They are visiting our lake as the seemingly do on an annual basis in Fall.  Here on this blog I have already shown photographs of the Coots paddling on the lake, and even flying across the surface of the lake.  Yesterday I noticed that a small division of the big flock of Coots was grazing on a neighbor’s backyard lawn!  I did not know that Coots would graze.  I don’t know if the Coots were trying to catch earthworms or if they were eating grass.  I caught pictures of the Coots taking a short flight into the lake and then the division of Coots joining the larger flock on the water.  Notice the huge clawed toed feet that these waterbirds have.  The Coot is not a duck but is a bird in the Rail family.  It has a beak instead of a duck bill.  The Coots are good divers and often cruise the shallows of the lake looking for food.  They seem to eat water plants and small aquatic animals and insects.  Please click on the thumbnail image to see the larger picture.  Enjoy!

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


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