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American Coot

Fulica americana

Length: 15 inches Wingspan: 25 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Gray body with darker head, thick white bill, reddish eye

American Coot - Fulica americanaThe American Coot is a very common summer resident, found in flocks on marshes and sloughs throughout the state.  A very adaptable bird, American Coots may also be seen waddling awkwardly in fields and lawns adjacent to water bodies.  They are not graceful fliers either, requiring a long "running" start to get airborne, pattering their feet on the surface of the water.

Habitat: Marshes and sloughs, preferably those that also have adjacent open water.  Also may feed on dry land.

Diet: Omnivorous, eating aquatic plants, grasses, seeds, insects, earthworms, small fish, tadpoles, snails, eggs, and fruits and berries. 

Behavior: Feeds both in the water and on land.  In the water, they may act like dabbling ducks, upending in shallow water, or may dive underwater.  They will also readily forage on land near water bodies.

Nesting: May through July.  The nest of an American Coot is a floating nest of wetland vegetation such as bulrushes and cattails.  The female lays between 4 and 11 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, the young leave the nest within hours, following the parents who feed them.  The young fledge after about 7 weeks.

Interactive eBird Map: Click to access an interactive eBird map of American Coot sightings

Song: American Coot Song

Migration: Summers throughout much of North America.  Northern populations migrate south in the winter (including those in South Dakota).

Similar Species: Common Gallinule

Conservation Status: Has declined throughout much of its range due to wetlands loss.  However, they are still common to abundant where habitat is available.  The IUCN lists the American Coot as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, American Coot

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - American Coot"

3) American Coot

Photo Information: May 27th, 2007 - Atkin's Slough in Lincoln County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution American Coot photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - American Coot
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident throughout the state.  Rare in winter.
Additional American Coot Photos
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