An inhabitant of wetlands and lagoons, the Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) is frequently seen at our home port in the Gippsland Lakes where it lurks in huge flocks. We were surrounded by them recently whilst on board Take It Easy and decided we should dedicate our Bird Photography Challenge #20 to these gregarious little water birds.
What does it look like?
With uniformly sooty black body, wings and tail, the Eurasian Coot is easily identifiable by its distinctive beak and frontal shield which are gleaming white. It has bright red eyes. Its legs are grey, with long strong toes that are partially webbed and well adapted to uneven and soft ground. The Eurasian coot can walk and even run vigorously. This is a small bird – 32 to 40cms long.
How does it behave?
The Eurasian coot swims buoyantly, and dives frequently for food. The dives can last up to 15 seconds, down to a depth of up to 7m. It also grazes on land and on the surface of the water. It is an omnivore, feeding on vegetable matter, supplemented with a few worms, insects and fish. This bird is a reluctant and weak flyer and when it takes off, it runs across the water surface with much splashing as show in this take-off series. Click on each image to display in larger format.
Pairs establish and maintain their territories with vigour. They can be aggressive and seize other ducks’ nests to use them as roosting sites. Their own nest is made of dead reeds and grasses near the water’s edge. Both sexes share incubation and care of the young.
Did you know?
The coot is able to compress its feathers and squeeze out all of the air, so it can dive deeply and for longer periods.
Where is it found?
The Eurasian Coot is found in vegetated lagoons, fresh water swamps and occasionally sheltered seas. It is widespread throughout Australia, Eurasia, Indonesia, New Guinea and Europe. The photos in the gallery were taken on the Gippsland Lakes, at Rotamah Island and at Metung with a Canon 7D Mark II and a Tamron 18 to 270mm lens. Click on any image in the gallery to display in full screen.