American Coot
Fulica americana


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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae

American Coot
American Coot (Fulica americana). Photograph by Gary Kramer, courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Physical Characteristics

The American Coot is about 38 cm long and winter weight is about 0.9 kg. Their toes are lobed, allowing efficient swimming (Bridgman, 2003). It has a wing span of about 71 cm, and wings are rounded (Bridgman, 2003). The feathers are dark grey, and there is a white patch under the tail (Bridgman, 2003).


The American Coot is well adapted for life in wetlands. The nest is of dead plant stems, but is lined with finer material (Alsop, 2001). The nest floats on the surface, but is anchored to vegetation. Both sexes cooperate in building the nest (Alsop, 2001).

Geographic Range

The American Coot’s geographic range includes much of Canada, the United States, and much of Central America. It is mostly a permanent resident of the western United States and Central America, a summer resident of Canada, and a winter resident of the southeastern United States (Alsop, 2001).


Diet consists mostly of aquatic vegetation and algae. Animal material also is utilized, including fish, amphibian larvae, crustaceans, and insects. Eggs may be stolen for food from other marsh-nesting birds (Birds of Stanford).

Reproductive Characteristics

American Coots are monogamous during any one mating season. Both sexes pair up on the water surface for courtship (Alsop, 2001). Both males and females are territorial during the mating season, often defending food areas near the nest from their neighbors (Lyon, 2006). Clutch size varies from 2 to 12 eggs, and the eggs are pinkish to brown (Alsop, 2001). Incubation is by both sexes and lasts for 21 to 25 days (Alsop 2001). The young are precocial, and are flying by an age of about 49 to 56 days (Alsop 2001).

Literature Cited

Alsop, F. J. 2001. Birds of North America, Eastern Region. DK Publishing, Inc., New York.

Birds of Stanford. American Coot. (On-line) Accessed 26 Mar. 2006

Bridgman, A. 2003. Fulica americana. (On-line) Animal Diversity Web. Accessed 26 March 2006.

Lyon, B. E. 2006. American Coot. (On-line) Wikipedia. Accessed 26 March 2006.

National Audubon Society. 1994. Field Guide to Birds, Western Region, North America. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York.


James McElyea, Mar 2006.

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