Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Small and sneaky

American coot
This small and sneaky American coot was spotted this past weekend while I was taking advantage of the hour longer weekend created by the change back to standard time.  I saw 6 of them, 3 each in two different places, though I'm pretty certain they weren't the same 3.  Coots are interesting birds. They aren't ducks; their feet are lobed not webbed.  They don't fly very well and really have to work hard to get airborne, often running on the water to get started.

Here in Pennsylvania they aren't hunted and are considered inedible.  In a handful of states, hunting them is considered sport and the birds are heavily hunted, though the meat still isn't eaten.  I read one report that indicated about 720,000 were killed for sport in a recent year, especially in the south.  I come from a family of hunters and hunted myself when I was younger.  I've never understood the idea of killing something you didn't (or couldn't) eat.

I saw two of the coots move into the sticks you can see in the background of this photo and walk out of the water, balancing just above the water line.  Coots are related to moorhens and even remind me a bit of the southern waterbird, the jacana, when they are out of the water.  I see them often enough in open water, but they seem to especially like areas where they can hide in bushes and shrubs along the the edge of the water.  They aren't glamorous by any means, but they are still a cool bird to see and watch. 


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Our coots here in England (very similar birds to judge from your photo) are so common and obvious that I've heard it said "if you haven't seen a coot today you haven't been out birdwatching". But I kinda like them too, though they are particilarly bad parents often drowning their own young for no apparent reason.

Woodswalker said...

I haven't seen a coot since I was a kid in Michigan. I always thought they were kind of cute and called them "cutes." Also a hunter of edible game as a youngster, I share your abhorrence toward those who kill creatures just for the sport of killing them.

Carolyn H said...

John, Coots are common here, though not so common that we say you haven't been birdwatching if you haven't seen one. We might say that about American robins but not about coots. And, I've never heard that ours are the terrible parents that your sound like.

Carolyn H said...

Woodswalker: Oh, I like the idea of calling them cutes. That's very, uh, cute!