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Marshbirds and Shorebirds of North Dakota

American Coot


AMERICAN COOT Fulica americana L15"(39cm)

The American coot is the only member of the family Rallidae with lobed toes. It is found statewide with larger concentrations occupying the Missouri Coteau region. The American coot is often associated with ducks but can be identified by its black color and its characteristic head pumping as it swims. It inhabits both brackish and freshwater wetlands, particularly those that contain a combination of emergent vegetation and open water. The length of the breeding season for this species is very extreme, often beginning in late April and running through mid-September. The nest is built by both sexes and consists of a foundation of marsh plants that float on the water. The female lays 6-22 eggs with both sexes sharing the incubation duties. The downy chicks, surprisingly orange in color, leave the nest as soon as their feathers dry. When feeding, the coot will either dive or tip up like a puddle duck. It feeds on various aquatic plants, insects, worms, and small fish.


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