Australian Bush Birds
Eurasian Coot  -  Fulica atra
Eurasian Coot
Eurasian Coot swimming; the rearward placing of the feet when swimming can be seen.
Eurasian Coot Eurasian Coot juvenile
Left; Adult Eurasian Coot with black head and neck merging into slate-grey body. The larger frontal shield indicates a male (compare with the smaller frontal shield on the female in the top photograph). Right; Juvenile Eurasian Coot with grey plumage.
map map Adult Eurasian Coots - Fulica atra - have a rounded body tapering to a pointed tail. Body is dark slate-grey all over, the underside is not paler. Head is black merging at the neck into the body colour. The eye is red. Beak is white and there is a white frontal shield; females have a small, narrower shield, males have broader, bigger ones. Legs and feet are grey; the feet are not webbed but the toes have flattened fringing lobes serving the same purpose as webbing. The legs look as if they are too far back for comfortable walking but the bird walks well and the rear placing of the legs gives good underwater thrusting. During moulting adults have browner body and wing plumage. Juveniles are pale grey beneath with whitish throat, dull brown above and brown iris. Grows 35 to 39 centimetres.

Forages in shallow to deep water. Up-ends and dives for plant material or feeds from surface growing vegetation. Inhabits swamps, wetlands, reservoirs and lakes; rarely marine wetlands and estuaries. Australian Coots have dietary differences to Eurasian birds which eat mainly aquatic insects, molluscs, worms, amphibians and fish; Australian Coots are primarily vegetarian foraging on a range of aquatic algae, shoots and seeds from the surface and from underwater. Material collected underwater is bought to the surface and sorted before being eaten. Coots eat and sleep on the water by day and by night.

The take off from the water with feet pattering on the surface then fly with neck and feet outstretched. They alight on water breast first with feet dragging. Long distance flights appear to take place at night.

Eurasian Coot - page 2
Eurasian Coot
Eurasian Coot feet have flattened fringing lobes, instead of webbing, on their feet to assist with swimming.
Eurasian Coot
Eurasian Coot inspecting his eggs on returning to the nest after a few minutes absence getting food. Mt. Hotham airport, Victoria.
Usually breeds August to February but at other times if conditions are good. They select territories on swampy ground with calling and fighting using feet, beaks and beating wings. Opponents approach each other with heads lowered and wings raised and will walk parallel to each other. Non-breeding birds are chased off by both sexes. Mating displays on open water involve much pursuit, calling and striking water with wings, followed by pair formation. Coots are aggressive towards other species at mating time and have been reported to kill ducklings and young grebes.

Coots have been sometimes observed in loose colonies and threesomes (two females and one male) have been observed. Both sexes share in nest-building; a loose clump of sticks and twigs or leaves and stalks of waterweeds, 260 to 390 millimetres in diameter with average cup size 220 by 230 millimetres. Nest often placed among leaves or plant matter or floats on water.

Eurasian Coot - page 3
Four to fifteen eggs are laid; sandy grey to bright clay-coloured, thickly and uniformly covered with grey-violet speckles and spots; oval, about 53 by 35 millimetres. Incubated for 21 to 26 days by both sexes.

Distributed on open fresh or brackish water throughout Australia, rare in the north and in deserts. Also found across Eurasia to Indonesia New Guinea and New Zealand. Three or four races worldwide, one in Australia.

Eurasian Coot
Male Eurasian Coot settled on the eggs in the nest beside a waterhole at Mt. Hotham airport, Victoria.