The American Coot is all business on the top and party on the bottom. They are that guy that wears a pressed business suit on and bright pink donut socks on if you look closely.
They have amazingly bright feet for a bird that appears mostly black while swimming. Seriously, if I could have dyed my hair that color as a teenager, I would have. No joke.
I saw them and found myself instantly fascinated with such an apparently abundant bird. Initially, I started photographing them because I thought it would be good practice to move the focus around on a large bird. Then, one walked out of the water. Instantly, I was hooked.
Unlike ducks with webbed feet, the American Coot has lobed feet. Yellowish green in color, their segmented features really stand out if you look closely. Their legs tend to be more yellow than green, but they also have an amazing vibrance.
American Coot & The Traveling Nature Journal
Literally, after seeing those feet, I knew the American Coot needed its own spread in my journal. I like to dive deeper into common birds many people dismiss.
It is important to find wonder in everyday sightings.
As I did more research, I found them often regarded as pests. Although, I did see this mostly in relation to golf courses. Apparently, their scat has created new obstacles for players and worsened their scores. For real though, if you can’t golf with different environmental challenges, are you really a good golfer?
More to the point, American Coots tend to live in large flocks. This is how I have almost always seen them. Sometimes these flocks move freely around other species and sometimes they have to make a display to keep a certain corner of the pond.
Because of their awesome lobed feet, they tend to “run on water” as they fly away. Their lobed feet slap the water loudly. American Coots will also do this to ward off other American Coots or other species. Pretty neat.
I did not think I could do their feet justice in a sketch, so I opted for a simple swimming sketch. I figured a photo would do more justice to those super cool feet. Other than that, I added some general characteristics, habitat, range, and field notes for the nature journal spread. For my initial identification, I used National Geographic Birds of Western North America. Apps are cool, but field guides still rule.
Also, the American Coot also appears in the March Species List I made for 2021.
If you can’t read them, they are listed below:
American Coot General Characteristics:
- Mostly black and duck-sized
- Has a little white on the outer tail area with a white/off-white bill
- Most have a red to brown forehead shield on the top of their bill
- Crazy yellowish green lobed feet and legs
- Swims similarly to a duck and
- Flocks together and makes a nasal sound
- Builds nests over freshwater wetlands, lakes, ponds, marshes
- Sometimes in populated areas like parks near water
- Will winter near fresh or salt water
- Abundant across North America.
- Some migrate, sometimes to Central America
- Others in the Western United States and Florida are year-round residents.