American Coot

"Coot" is both the informal name for an eccentric or crotchety old man and the common name of a number of waterbirds in the Rail Family (Rallidae). American Coots (Fulica americana) are not only very common in wetlands here in Tucson, they can also be found throughout most of North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

American Coot (Fulica americana)

Unlike ducks, American Coots don't have webbed feet, instead their toes are edged with rounded, scalloped lobes that help give them paddling power for swimming. American Coots are charcoal black with a black-ringed white bill with a prominent, black-tipped forehead shield.

American Coot (Fulica americana) from the front

I had never noticed it before, but the camera's flash reveals that American Coots have dark red eyes that contrast nicely with their achromatic bills and feathers.

American Coot (Fulica americana) showing red eye

Like many in the Rail family, American Coots are quite vocal, and their loud clucking calls sound like a combination of those of a chicken and a duck. However, unlike many of the other Rails, especially the sneaky Clapper Rails (Rallus longirostris), American Coots can usually be found out in the open on the water and even begging for food along with ducks instead of skulking in the reeds and cattails with the Rails.

American Coot (Fulica americana)

American Coots, like this one at Agua Caliente Park, feed mainly on aquatic plants and other plant material.