American Coot

Fulica americana

Summary 5

A familiar duck-like waterbird, the American Coot (13-16 inches) is most easily identified by its dark gray body, white bill, and red frontal “shield” on forehead. Other field marks include red eyes, yellow legs with lobed feet, and a white patch underneath the tail. Male and female American Coots are similar to one another in all seasons.

The American Coot breeds widely in the northern and western United States and southern Canada, as well as locally further south and east. Many northern birds migrate south for the winter, when they may be found widely in the southeastern U.S., in the desert southwest, and along the coasts of Mexico and Central America. Birds breeding in the southern part of this species’ range, as well as populations in central Mexico and in the West Indies, are non-migratory. American Coots breed in relatively deep, well-vegetated freshwater wetlands. Wintering birds may occur on freshwater marshes, and may also venture into brackish or salt water lagoons, bays, and estuaries.

This species primarily eats aquatic plant material. American Coots may be observed feeding by picking plant matter off of the surface or by submerging their heads to feed on underwater plants. This species may also be observed walking on the shore or running along the surface of the water while attempting to become airborne. American Coots are primarily active during the day; however, this species does migrate at night.

Threat Status: Least concern

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Jack Wolf, some rights reserved (CC BY-ND),
  2. (c) J. Maughn, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  3. (c) Mark Peck, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  4. (c) Jack Wolf, some rights reserved (CC BY-ND),
  5. Adapted by carmacks_bioblitz from a work by (c) Unknown, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),

More Info

Range Map

iNatCA Map

Animal Bird
Color black, grey
Bird Rallidae (coot)