Fulica – Coots

Small coots might look like moorhens bobbing their heads or ducks just chilling in the water

Coots are waterbirds characterized by their dark, often slate-gray plumage, stark white bills, and striking frontal shields, which can vary in color but are often pronounced red or yellow.

Coots are highly versatile within their watery domains, exhibiting a range of functional and communicative behaviors. For instance, their splashy antics across the water surface serve multiple purposes. It’s not just a frivolous activity; these behaviors can be a form of play, a means to clean their feathers, or a warning to potential intruders. When coots splash across the water, they send clear messages to other creatures in the vicinity to maintain their distance, effectively using water as a medium for communication.

While their wings may appear disproportionately small for their body size, coots are indeed capable of flight. Some species may struggle with the initial takeoff due to their build and the surface tension of the water, requiring a considerable runway to become airborne. However, once they achieve liftoff, coots are surprisingly adept in the air. Their flight may not be the most graceful, but it is certainly effective, allowing them to traverse considerable distances.

Coots’ feet are another remarkable aspect of their anatomy. Unlike ducks and geese, coots do not have fully webbed feet. Instead, they possess a unique lobed membrane on each toe, which expands when they kick down to swim, giving them propulsion and contracts when they lift their feet, reducing resistance. This adaptation provides them with excellent maneuverability and allows them to tread over floating vegetation with ease, often appearing to walk on water.

Migration is an integral part of the coots’ life cycle, and they typically undertake these extensive journeys at night. Nighttime migration offers several advantages, including cooler temperatures, reduced risk of predation, and less interference from human activity. By traveling under the cover of darkness, coots can better utilize the stars and the moon for navigation