Sonoran Desert Naturalist >>> Field Guide >>> Riparian and Water Birds >>> American Coot

American Coot

Fulica americana

Photo of Fulica americana by Robert Shantz

Photo is copyrighted by Robert Shantz, Wilcox, Arizona, USA. 24 Nov. 2008.

These are familiar birds near ponds and lakes in the Sonoran Desert through the winter months. During the hot summers they are virtually absent having migrated north. Many of these water bodies are man-made and filled with reclaimed waste water. Before urbanization came to the desert there were rivers with calm backwaters and large pools that were used by these and other migratory waterfowl.

Coots look a bit like ducks, but are not closely related. They belong to a group of birds called rails. Most rails are highly secretive and nigh never seen. Coots, on the contrary, are quite brazen and easily seen, commonly moving onto urban lawns where they graze on grass and herbs. In the water they dive frequently to reach submerged aquatic plants. All black feathers, a bright white beak and a red eye make these easy-to-recognize birds.

Rallidae -- Rail Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2008