American Coot (Fulica americana)

American Coot

[order] GRUIFORMES | [family] Rallidae | [latin] Fulica americana | [UK] American Coot | [FR] Foulque d’Amerique | [DE] Amerikanisches Blasshuhn | [ES] | [NL] Amerikaanse Meerkoet


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Fulica americana NA, MA widespread, also Hawaiian Islands and n SA
Fulica americana americana se Alaska and Canada to Costa Rica and the West Indies
Fulica americana columbiana Colombia and n Ecuador
Fulica americana peruviana Peru

Physical charateristics

Fulica americana is about 38 cm long and during the winter will weigh up to almost 0.9 kg. They have a wingspan of 58 to 71 cm. Their feathers are dark grey, with a white patch under the tail. The bill is also white, with a red swelling along the upper edge. Their lobed toes make coots powerful swimmers, especially in open water. Though capable of flight, coots have short, rounded wings which make it difficult to take off. Once in the air, coots can fly as well as any other bird.

Listen to the sound of American Coot

[audio: Coot.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: cm wingspan max.: cm
size min.: 38 cm size max.: 39 cm
incubation min.: 22 days incubation max.: 24 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 24 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 8  
      eggs max.: 10  


North America, Middle America : widespread, also Hawaiian Islands and North South America


Whether wintering in the south or spending the summer in the north, coots live along waterways. They are freshwater birds and live in the shallows of freshwater lakes, ponds or marshes, although they may be seen in brackish water occasionally. They have also been found living in the manmade ponds of parks or golf courses.


When it becomes time for the coot to mate (usually around May and June), the process begins with great show. Both sexes start out displaying themselves in front of the other. They call to one another, while splashing about. The mating process begins on the water and ends on the land. The female coot assumes a submissive posture (crouched with head down) as an invitation to the male for sex. She maintains this position while mating.
Both the male and female care for the eggs and the young. They work together to build a nest that is about 35 cm across. These nests are located at the edge of the reed cover at the edge of the pond. All nests have a ramp that leads into the water, so the young have easier access when coming and going from the nest. The female lays 8 to 10 eggs at a time. The eggs are a pink color with brown spots. Both the male and female take turns keeping the eggs incubated until they hatch in about 23 days.
The young look like the adults, except they are lighter in color. The parents share the job of feeding and teaching their young, dividing the number of young between them. After one month, the young can dive for their own food. They can fly 5 to 6 weeks after hatching and are fully independent after about 2 months.

Feeding habits

Fulica americana is an omnivorious species. It will eat small aquatic animals (fish or tadpoles), insects, and vegetation found in the pond. Coots have the ability to dive after its food, much like ducks. When diving, they seek the plants that grow on the bottom of the pond. After bringing plants up to the surface, coots will go through them looking for the edible bits. Even though F. americana is capable of searching out its own food, it has been known to steal food from other birds


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
American Coot status Least Concern


Mainly migratory, especially in North America E of Rocky Mts. Many apparently migrate to larger N wetlands for post-breeding moult. Winters in Pacific and Atlantic coastal states N to British Columbia and Maryland; most winter in S USA and Mexico. Birds rings in Alberta winter mainly in California and W Mexico; those from Saskatchewan and Manitoba mainly E Mexico to Louisiana, some reaching Caribbean islands. All populations mix in Gulf states in winter. Birds nesting more to S move furthest S in winter, e.g. 32% of recoveries of those ringed in Iowa found in Cuba. Winters throughout Central America S to Panama and possibly Colombia; small numbers reach larger Hawaiian islands in winter. Migrates at night, singly or in loose flocks, probably on broad front; birds often hit powerlines. Males and non-breeders congregate in late summer and move S ahead of females and juveniles. Autumn passage late Aug to Dec; peaks in Mississippi flyway late Oct; wintering birds present Louisiana and Mexico Oct-Mar, Costa Rica Oct-Apr, and Panama Oct to late Apr. Spring migration occurs late Feb through to mid-May; males and older birds migrate first; birds arrive on N breeding grounds from late Mar. Many cases of birds wandering N of breeding range in summer and autumn, as far as Newfoundland, Labrador, Franklin and S Greenland; vagrant to Iceland. Numbers increase in Colombia Oct-Apr, but origins of birds involved not clear.

Distribution map

American Coot distribution range map

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