Crested Coot (Fulica cristata)

Crested Coot

[order] GRUIFORMES | [family] Rallidae | [latin] Fulica cristata | [UK] Crested Coot | [FR] Foulque a crete | [DE] Kammblasshuhn | [ES] Focha cornuda | [NL] Knobbelmeerkoet


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

Only slightly bulkier than Coot but with wings and often neck c. 10% longer. Character and general appearance similar to Coot. At close range, breeding adult shows diagnostic red knobs above broader frontal shield (hence name), and secondaries lack obvious grey-white border of Coot.

Listen to the sound of Crested Coot

[audio: Coot.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 65 cm wingspan max.: 75 cm
size min.: 28 cm size max.: 42 cm
incubation min.: 18 days incubation max.: 20 days
fledging min.: 55 days fledging max.: 20 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 5  
      eggs max.: 9  


Africa : South, Southeast, East


Habitat requirements are not well known. Crested Coot mainly uses open fresh water or slightly brackish wetlands, typically with dense submerged and emergent vegetation. More permanent wetlands (or those that are flooded between October and July at least) seem to be favoured by the species. During the breeding season, the species uses areas with abundant submerged vegetation. Emergent vegetation could play a secondary role for the provision of nesting material and shelter where the submerged vegetation is not dense. In Morocco, the Crested Coot occurs in wetlands with at least 20% of their surface area covered by emergent vegetation. At other times of the year the species also occurs in more open-water habitats.


The mating system is monogamous. Paired birds can be observed in winter, which suggests that this link can be maintained for a long period. The timing of nesting is variable and clutch size varies between 5 and 7 eggs (a second brood is possible). Hatching takes place from the second half of February to the first half of September, with a peak between May and June
(similar to Common Coot Fulica atra). In Morocco Hatching occurs all around the year. Incubation takes 18 to 25 days and is shared between the sexes. An elder sibling collaboration in the care of the chicks has been observed. The family unit remains intact during winter, despite the chicks’ having reached maturity.

Feeding habits

The very limited data available indicate an omnivorous diet consisting of a mixture of plant material and invertebrates, mainly based on submerged vegetation. Feeding techniques of Crested Coot are similar to those of Coot, with an emphasis on aquatic methods, such as diving down and pulling up submerged vegetation. Crested Coot also feed from the surface and graze on short grass near water, especially when food is scarce, but much less so than Common Coot.


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 very 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.
Fulica cristata has a predominantly African distribution, which just extends into
Europe in southernmost Spain. Its European breeding population is extremely small
(c.80 pairs), and fluctuated widely between 1970-1990 in response to weather
conditions. These extreme fluctuations continued during 1990-2000, when several
droughts caused the population to decline slightly overall (see winter data). As a
consequence of this decline and its extremely small and fluctuating population, the
species is evaluated as Critically Endangered.
This coot inhabits a major part of sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. A relict population inhabits north-western Africa and the south of Spain. After a strong decline during the 1960’s, due to habitat destruction, its Spanish population seems to be stabilised. It counts not more than 50 breeding pairs, however, and remains very vulnerable. Some new sites were very recently colonised, partly due to reintroduction programs
Crested Coot status Least Concern


The Crested Coot is mainly resident in those wetlands which offer appropriate conditions all year round. But the birds can make local movements, especially during dispersal after breeding due to the drying out of seasonal wetlands (e.g. Marismas del Guadalquivir/Spain). Strong periods of drought (e.g. 1981-1983 and 1992-1995) resulted in the drying out of suitable habitats and in a marked decrease in the number of birds present. During such periods the species occurs on artificial wetlands, such as ponds, dams, sewage ponds etc., and the larger part of the population makes opportunistic movements attempting to find more suitable wetlands.
In Southern Africa the Crested Coot is resident on existing wetlands, but birds may move considerable distances outside the breeding season. At Barberspan, South Africa, factors influencing fluctuations in numbers include rainfall, water levels and availability of preferred food and 70% of birds ringed between 1955 and 1978 were recovered within 300 Km from the first capture site. According to ringing recoveries in South Africa between 1954 and 1991, birds have been recovered as far as 5.000 Km. from where they were ringed. Because of the short distance between suitable habitats in Morocco and Spain it is very likely that birds move from one country to the other.

Distribution map

Crested Coot distribution range map

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