Have you ever watched a coot swim? When I first spotted this American Coot (Fulica americana) earlier this week at my local marsh, I thought it might be a duck. Once it started swimming, I could tell immediately that it was a coot.
Coots have a really clumsy way of swimming. They thrust their necks forward and then back, as if to generate momentum to propel themselves forward. The two photos show two different positions that the coot assumes while swimming. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology that coots, unlike ducks, don’t have webbed feet, but instead each one of the coot’s long toes has broad lobes of skin that help it kick through the water. In fact, they are closer relatives to Sandhill Cranes than to Mallards.
This coot was by itself and may be migrating through this area or may become a resident here for the winter. I was happy that I saw the coot in a relatively open area of the marsh. A short time later, the coot swam into the cattails and disappeared from sight.
Given the popular use of the term “coot,” I wonder if I am old enough to qualify as an American coot too.
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.