Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Crazy as a Coot

You've heard the phrases. "Crazy as a coot," or "You old coot." Until I started birding, I thought a "coot" was simply a derogatory word for someone who was slightly batty. Then I learned that there actually is something named a coot, and it's a bird!

The American Coot is a black/gray chunky bird with a pointy white beak, built like a chicken, but related to rails. Unlike ducks, with whom they often swim, they don't have webbed feet, but only lobed toes. The broad lobes fold back each time the bird lifts its foot, so it doesn’t impede walking on dry land, though it supports the bird’s weight on mucky ground.

When the heavy bodied bird tries to fly, however, it has to work pretty hard. It runs as fast as it can, flapping furiously, just in front of your boat. Then in a short distance, they decide they are safe enough, drop back down to the lake's surface again, and return to calmly browsing the water plants.

I enjoy watching the Coots at sunset, when they paddle across the lake leaving long wakes behind. What a peaceful way to end the day!

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