Coot call: Nelson Conceição, Xeno-Canto
What am I?
I am a bird similar to a moorhen but with a different coloured beak and legs. We both belong to the rail family and are not ducks!
Where do I come from?
I can be seen year-round in the UK, my numbers increase in the winter as migratory coots from Eastern and Northern Europe join me.
A bit about me
I live on ponds, lakes and slow-moving rivers – even in flooded quarry pits. My long legs and toes enable me to dive for my favourite food, submerged plants, but I will also eat insects, fruit, seeds, leaves and bird eggs. I am sometimes mistaken for a moorhen; however, I am larger, and the most obvious difference is my white bill and forehead.
My nest is typically quite exposed at the edge of a reed bed, and is made from dead reeds. Despite my relatively small size, I will agressively defend my territory, especially during breeding season. I will typically have 5-7 chicks in a brood, but often, they won’t all survive. I have been known to attack and kill my own young! There are several theories to why I do this; it could simply be a way of reducing the number of chicks as I can’t feed them all, while some humans think I am punishing chicks for being too pushy while begging for food, a third reason might be that another cheeky coot has laid it’s eggs in my nest, and I’ve discovered that some of the chicks don’t belong to me!
I am common on the Solent all year round.
My name might not be listed in the Solent’s Special Protection Areas but I am still definitely important for the coastal ecosystem and form part of the waterbird assemblages which this region is protected for.
The phrase “bald as a coot” is derived from the white frontal patch on my forehead.