American Coot (Fulica americana)
The American Coot is a native water bird that can be found in freshwater and brackish water ponds and marshes island-wide. It is also often seen on golf courses and occassionally in fields and lawns. Good places to see Coots are Spittal Pond, Pitman’s Pond at Somerset Long Bay, Paget Marsh and Pembroke Marsh. They can also often be seen on the grass next to South Road at the Edmund Gibbons Nature Reserve in Devonshire. These birds are often seen in pairs or groups.
Coots are large dark coloured, duck-like birds. Adults have a black head and neck and black or charcoal gray bodies. Younger birds are lighter gray and become darker with age. Coots have a distinctive white bill and the white colour continues onto the forehead, between the birds red eyes. The coot also has a distinct white patch under its tail which can be seen as the bird swims away. On land, the most distinctive feature is the Coots very large, yellowish-green feet. Coots have lobed toes, not webbed feet like ducks.
When swimming Coots bob their head forwards and backwards. They will dive for food, or dabble at the surface. At Pitman’s Pond coots can often be seen returning to the surface with a mouth full of vegetation. Coots eat insects, molluscs, plants and algae. When coots become startled they may make a “kuk-kuk-kuk” call and will seek shelter in pond-edge vegetation.
American Coots have been known to breed in Bermuda. They build a nest on the edge of a pond, usually hidden in dense vegetation like bullrushes and cattails. The coot chicks are dark grey with an orange head and sholders. The invasive red-eared slider terrrapin poses a threat to nesting Coots in many of Bermuda’s ponds, as the terrapins will lie on the nest to sun themselves and may eat the chicks.
In Bermuda American Coots share their habitat with the Common Moorhen, which is a similar looking, dark coloured bird, but has a red beak and forehead.