Coots are medium-sized water birds that are members of the rail family Rallidae. They constitute the genus Fulica. Coots have predominantly black plumage, and, unlike many of the rails, they are usually easy to see, often swimming in open water. They are close relatives of the moorhen.

The greatest species variety is in South America, and it is likely that the genus originated there. They are common in Europe and North America.[citation needed]

They have prominent frontal shields or other decoration on the forehead, and coloured bills, and many, but not all, have white on the under tail. Like other rails, they have lobed toes. 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. A group of coots may be referred to as a covert.[1]

They tend to have short, rounded wings and are weak fliers, although northern species are nevertheless capable of covering long distances; the American Coot has reached Britain and Ireland on rare occasions. Those species that migrate do so at night.

Coots can walk and run vigorously on strong legs, and have long toes that are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces.

These birds are omnivorous, taking mainly plant material, but also small animals 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. A flock of coots is known in the US as a cover.[2]


Species in taxonomic order

Photo gallery


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Coot — (k[=oo]t), n. [Cf. D. koet, W. cwtair; cwta short, bodtailed + iar hen; cf. cwtau to dock. Cf. {Cut}.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) (a) A wading bird with lobate toes, of the genus {Fulica}. The common European or bald coot is {Fulica atra} (see under {bald});… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • coot — [ku:t] n [Date: 1200 1300; Origin: Perhaps from Middle Dutch coet] 1.) a small black and white water bird with a short beak 2.) old coot AmE informal an old man who you think is strange or unpleasant ▪ a miserable, mean old coot …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • coot — c.1300, cote, used for various water fowl (now limited to Fulica atra and, in North America, F. americana), of uncertain origin (Cf. Du. meercoet lake coot ). Meaning silly person, fool is attested from 1766 …   Etymology dictionary

  • coot — ► NOUN 1) (pl. same) an aquatic bird of the rail family with black plumage and a white bill that extends back on to the forehead as a horny shield. 2) (usu. old coot) informal a stupid or eccentric person. ORIGIN probably Dutch or Low German …   English terms dictionary

  • coot — [ko͞ot] n. pl. coots or coot [ME cote < ? MDu koet] 1. any of a genus (Fulica) of ducklike, freshwater birds of the rail family, with long lobed toes ☆ 2. SCOTER 3. Informal an amusing or eccentric old fellow …   English World dictionary

  • coot — [ kut ] noun count a small black bird with a white beak that lives near water …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Coot — Famille Écoutum La famille Écoutum (Coot Kin en anglais), dans l univers des canards imaginé par la Walt Disney Company[1], constitue principalement l ascendance de Donald Duck. Fondée par Cornélius Écoutum, elle est alliée à la famille Duck par… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • coot — /kooht/, n. 1. any aquatic bird of the genus Fulica, as F. americana, of North America, and F. atra, of the Old World, characterized by lobate toes and short wings and tail. 2. any of various other swimming or diving birds, esp. the scoters. 3.… …   Universalium

  • Coot — This name is of early medieval English origin, and derives from the Middle English co(a)te meaning a coot, and was originally given as a nickname to a bald person. The bird was regarded as bald because of the large white patch, an extension of… …   Surnames reference

  • coot — ban·di·coot; coot; coot·ie; …   English syllables

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