Sunday, August 23, 2015

EURASIAN COOT PARENTS AND CHICKS



The Eurasian Coot's scientific name is "Fulica atra" and it is recognized by its snowy white bill and forehead shield.  The rest of its coloring is a dark sooty grey, but it does have bright red eyes.  



Immature birds are generally paler than adults, with a white wash on the throat.  Nestlings are downy black with fine yellow tips. The head is orange-red and the bill is red with a creamy white tip.


The Eurasian Coot ranges from Eurasia to Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia.  Birds have also recently transported themselves to New Zealand, and the species is quickly becoming established.



Food is mainly obtained during underwater dives which can last up to 15 seconds and range down to about 21 to 22 feet in depth.  Birds also graze on the land and on the surface of the water.  In Australia, Eurasian Coots feed almost entirely on vegetable matter, supplementing their diet with a few insects, worms and fish.  Birds of the northern hemisphere tend to be much more carnivorous.  


They breed any time conditions are favorable, and may produce successive broods.  During the breeding season pairs establish and maintain territories with vigor.  Their aggression is also extended towards other species.  Nests of ducks are often seized and used as roosting sites, the unfortunate owner's eggs being pushed off into the water.  Young ducks and grebes are sometimes killed.  The nest is often a floating raft of vegetation or is built on logs or tree stumps that are surrounded by water.  Both male and female coots share incubation and care of the young.  If food becomes scarce the young birds may be killed by the parents.


I spotted these coots at Torcross in Devonshire a couple of months back.  Across the road from the sea is a fresh water lake.  This area is called Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve, which you can take a look at here.  There were dozens of water birds which were a whole lot of fun to observe.  They are quite used to humans.  We sat on the bench for a long time, but got up and left when a family arrived with their small dog. The ducks, of course, all headed for the water and were gone.  After walking around Torcross Village and on our way back to the car, they had returned and another family had appeared to enjoy the bench we had been sitting on.

I was fascinated by the coots and their very territorial behavior but did not realize they were as aggressive as what I read online. Still, they are a fascinating bird, especially when you look at those enormous, strange looking feet.  There is overwhelming evidence that birds are the descendants of a maniraptoran dinosaur, probably something similar - not identical - to a small Dromaeosaur.  You can take a look here.

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Today I am linking with the following meme's, with many thanks to our hosts for allowing us to see many wonderful nature photos from around the world.

Anni at Bird D'Pot

Judith at Mosaic Monday
Michelle at Nature Notes