American Coot

Scientific Name:

Fulica americana

Type:

Bird

Habitat:

Lakes, ponds, swamps, and marshes with aquatic vegetation

Range:

While coots are migratory, they are quite common throughout North America

Status:

Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is

NATIVE

to the Truckee Meadows.

Identification:

American coots medium-sized, black water birds with small heads and white bills. When you first spot a coot, you might think it looks like a mashup of a chicken (round body) and a stork (long legs). Coots are bigger than a robin but smaller than a crow or a Mallard duck. While ducks swim with the benefit of webbed feet, coots have long yellow-green legs with very large lobed toes which propel them through the water. Coots can be noisy and territorial. Coots are omnivores and will eat everything from aquatic vegetation and insects to golf course lawns.

Fast Facts:

  • Coots use their big lobed toes along with some rapid wing flapping to run along the surface of the water before becoming airborne.

  • Coots were a source of food for the Northern Paiute and the Washoe tribes. Coots were so abundant they could be  harvested with nets in communal drives.

  • Great Basin indigenous peoples also collected coots by swimming through the water in disguise, placing a mound of tules on their head.

  • In the Truckee Meadows, American Coots can be found in most parks that have ponds or nearby water.

  • To the Northern Paiute of northern Nevada, American coots are known as mudhens or saya.

Sources:

  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology, American Coot, 2021, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Coot.

  • National Audubon Society, American Coot, 2021, https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/american-coot.

  • Fowler, Catherine S. Willard Z. Park’s Ethnographic Notes on the Northern Paiute of Western Nevada, 1933-1944 Volume 1 University of Utah Anthropological Papers Number 114 1989 page 54

  • Fowler, Catherine S. Subsistence chapter in Handbook of North American Indians Volume 11 Great Basin (page 86)  Smithsonian Institution Washington 1986 General Editor William C Sturtevant, Volume Editor Warren L. D’Azevedo

Contributor(s):

Regina Hockett (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

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