bearriver Blog: COOT FIGHT!


Friday, March 11, 2011

No, sorry, the title of this blog entry does not allude to two crotchety old men arguing on the Refuge until it comes to fisticuffs.  I'm talking American coots, the marsh birds that are beginning territorial wars in the wetlands just outside our Education Center windows!

Also known to many as "mudhens," American coots make up for their lack of beauty in plumage or song with their interesting behavior and odd vociferousness. This swimming rail has lobed feet instead of webbed and a bill more like a chicken's than a duck's - which is used for foraging on aquatic vegetation on or under the water's surface. Coots are widespread and can be found in Utah throughout the year as long as there is open water, but spring is the time they begin to move back to breeding grounds and are some of the earliest  waterbirds in Utah to start setting-up and defending territory...which they'll do with quite a squawkety show!

Using such tactics as spattering (running across water flapping wings and feet loudly upon the surface), patrolling, charging and even swanning (extending head downward while raising wings and tailfeathers to appear as large as possible), the coots appear like miniature medieval knights jousting for the princess' approval.  In fact, her approval sometimes looks very similar to the fighting male behavior!  Ah nature - sometimes so hard to tell between love and hate.

So - stop by and enjoy the jockeying for nesting sites and catch one of nature's intriguing creations showing off at its squawkety best . . . the American coot.

 - Jason American coot

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