American Coot

Fulica americana

Often mistaken for a duck, the American Coot is a common waterbird. Its all black body and white chicken-like beak distinguish this swimming rail from the real ducks.

Interesting Information

  • Although it swims like a duck, the American Coot does not have webbed feet like a duck. Instead of having all the toes connected by webs, each coot toe has lobes on the sides of each segment.

  • They are nicknamed "marsh hen" or "mud hen" because of they way their heads bob when they walk or swim.

  • A group of coots has many collective nouns, including a "codgery", "commotion", "fleet", "shoal", and "swarm" of coots.


Adult Description

  • All black.

  • Swims and dives.

  • White bill with black mark near tip.

  • Bill triangular like a chicken's, not flat like a duck's.

  • White stripe on sides of undertail.

  • Length Range: 38 cm (15 in)

  • Weight: 726 g (25.6 oz)

  • Size: 3. Medium (9 - 16 in)

  • Color Primary: Black, Gray, Sheen or Iridescence

  • Underparts: Black

  • Upperparts: Black

  • Back Pattern: Solid

  • Belly Pattern: Solid

  • Breast Pattern: Solid

Sex Differences

Sexes alike.


Downy young with bald red head; immature similar to adult, but dull gray instead of black, with lighter face and chest.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Found on coastal bays and inlets, often occurring in large rafts during winter.


Forages by tipping, diving from the surface, or walking along shorelines.


American Coot: Feeds on plant materials, aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, snails, worms, and sometimes bird eggs.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Accipitridae
    Subfamily: Rallidae
Genus: Fulica
Species: Fulica americana
    Subspecies: Fulica americana americana
  Fulica americana columbiana
  Fulica americana peruviana

Similar Species

  • Pied-billed Grebe

  • Common Moorhen

  • Purple Gallinule

  • Sora

  • Eurasian Coot

Bird Sound

Calls scratchy clucking noises and series of "kuk-kuk-kuk" notes.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution


American Coot

Up close and personal