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Temporal range: Early Pliocene to present
Fulica atra southampton.JPG
Eurasian coot (Fulica atra)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Fulica
Linnaeus, 1758

For extinct and prehistoric species, see article text

Coots are medium-sized water birds that are members of the rail family, Rallidae. They constitute the genus Fulica, the name being the Latin term for "coot."[1] Coots have predominantly black plumage, and—unlike many rails—they are usually easy to see, often swimming in open water. They are close relatives of the moorhen.

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

A group of coots are referred to as a covert[2] or cover.[3]

Extant species[edit]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Hawaiian Coot RWD1.jpg Fulica alai Peale, 1848 Hawaiian coot or ʻAlae keʻokeʻo Hawaii
American Coot (37712325421).jpg Fulica americana Gmelin, 1789 American coot southern Quebec to the Pacific coast of North America and as far south as northern South America
Andean Coot RWD3.jpg Fulica ardesiaca Tschudi, 1843 Andean coot Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
Red-gartered Coot RWD5.jpg Fulica armillata Vieillot, 1817 red-gartered coot Argentina, southern Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay
Common Coot Eurasian coot Fulica atra by Dr. Raju Kasambe DSCN3784 (1).jpg Fulica atra Linnaeus, 1758 Eurasian coot or common coot Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa
Tagua cornuda Horned coot (Fulica cornuta).JPG Fulica cornuta Bonaparte, 1853 horned coot Argentina, Bolivia, Chile
Fulica cristata -Cape Town, South Africa -adult-8.jpg Fulica cristata Gmelin, 1789 Red-knobbed coot Africa, Iberian Peninsula
Riesenblaesshuhn fulica gigantea Chile crop.jpg Fulica gigantea Eydoux & Souleyet, 1841 giant coot Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru
Fulica leucoptera GALLARETA CHICA.jpg Fulica leucoptera Vieillot, 1817 white-winged coot Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Falkland Islands, Paraguay, Uruguay
Red-fronted Coot.jpg Fulica rufifrons Philppi & Landbeck, 1861 red-fronted coot Argentina, southern Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, southern Peru, Uruguay

Extinct species[edit]

Recently extinct species[edit]

Late Quaternary species[edit]

Fossil species[edit]


Coots have prominent frontal shields or other[which?] decoration on the forehead, with red to dark red eyes and coloured bills. Many have white on the under tail. The featherless shield gave rise to the expression "as bald as a coot," which the Oxford English Dictionary cites in use as early as 1430. Like other rails, they have long, lobed toes that are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. Coots have strong legs and can walk and run vigorously. They tend to have short, rounded wings and are weak fliers, though northern species nevertheless can cover long distances. They typically congregate in large rafts in open water. They are socially gregarious and messy aquatic feeders.[citation needed]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The greatest species variety occurs in South America, and the genus likely[weasel words] originated there. They are common in Europe and North America.[5] Coot species that migrate do so at night. The American coot has been observed rarely in Britain and Ireland, while the Eurasian coot is found across Asia, Australia and parts of Africa. In southern Louisiana, the coot is referred to by the French name "poule d'eau," which translates into English as "water hen".[6]

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

Coots are omnivorous, eating mainly plant material, but also small animals, fish and eggs. They are aggressively territorial during the breeding season, but are otherwise often found in sizeable flocks on the shallow vegetated lakes they prefer.

Chick mortality occurs mainly due to starvation rather than predation as coots have difficulty feeding a large family of hatchlings on the tiny shrimp and insects that they collect. Many chicks die in the first 10 days after hatching, when they are most dependent on adults for food.[7] Coots can be very brutal to their own young under pressure such as the lack of food, and after about three days they start attacking their own chicks when they beg for food. After a short while, these attacks concentrate on the weaker chicks, who eventually give up begging and die. The coot may eventually raise only two or three out of nine hatchlings.[8] In this attacking behaviour, the parents are said to "tousle" their young. This can result in the death of the chick.[9]


  1. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  2. ^ "What do you call a group of ...?". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  3. ^ "Baltimore Bird Club. Group Name for Birds: A Partial List". Retrieved 2007-06-03.
  4. ^ Alarcón-Muñoz, Jhonatan; Labarca, Rafael; Soto-Acuña, Sergio (2020-12-01). "The late Pleistocene-early Holocene rails (Gruiformes: Rallidae) of Laguna de Tagua Tagua Formation, central Chile, with the description of a new extinct giant coot". Journal of South American Earth Sciences. 104: 102839. Bibcode:2020JSAES.10402839A. doi:10.1016/j.jsames.2020.102839. ISSN 0895-9811.
  5. ^ Olson, Storrs L. (1974). "The Pleistocene Rails of North America." Museum of Natural History.
  6. ^ "American Coot".
  7. ^ "This Coot has a Secret! - NatureOutside". 20 June 2015.
  8. ^ The Life of Birds, David Attenborough. The Problems of Parenthood. 10:20.
  9. ^ Clutton-Brock, TH., The Evolution of Parental Care, Princeton University Press, 1991 p. 203.

External links[edit]