Backyard Buddies
Eurasian Coot

Photo: Rosie Nicolai

Eurasian Coot

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You've probably spotted this black bird gliding effortlessly over the surface of a pond or river - but do you know what it is?

The white beak and shield on its face give it away, as do its red eyes. It's a Eurasian Coot.

If you go for a walk near some water and hear 'kow-kow-kow' or 'kwok', you're close to spotting a Coot.

At the beginning of August, Coots are looking for a mate and pairing up. They breed right up until February and can raise more than one clutch of eggs during this time, provided they have enough food.

When a Coot wants to attract a partner, it chases its desired Coot around on the water, calls, and strikes the water with its wings.

Once a pair of Coots agree that they like each other, they nibble each other's feathers affectionately and make greeting postures towards each other.

Coots live all over the world. The Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra, live in Australia, but there are also Coot species found in New Guinea, Europe, India, China, Indonesia, North Africa and New Zealand.

Coots in Australia are mainly vegetarians. They eat the leaves, shoots, and stems of plants and love to pull up underwater weeds. In other countries, Coots eat a lot more snails, fish, tadpoles, frogs, worms and insects.

Look out for Coots when you next go to a park with a pond, or to a stream, swamp or river with lots of reeds and waterweeds. Coots often come onshore in large groups to nibble at grasses or leaves.

Coots are extremely good divers. They can dive deeper than 7m and often remain underwater for up to 15 seconds. A Coot can dive so deeply and for so long because it can squeeze lots of air out of its feathers as it goes underwater, making it less buoyant.

Tip

To be a Coot buddy, make sure you don't drop any plastic in the ocean and try to clean up plastic items in our waterways.

Avoid using chemicals and pesticides in your garden as rain causes runoff to enter waterways. These chemicals eventually end up in ponds, streams, rivers and swamps, where they affect your native wildlife.

Did you know?

Have you ever heard the expression, "As bald as a Coot"? The Oxford English Dictionary explains that the featherless shield of the Coot gave rise to the expression, and cites the earliest use of it as 1430. What do you call a group of Coots? A 'covert.'

Related Factsheets:

Eurasian Coot

Coots live near water in every state of Australia, except in the most arid deserts. Coots also live in New Guinea, Europe, India, China, Indonesia, North Africa and New Zealand. A group of Coots is called a covert. Adult coots are black, with a white facial shield and beak. They have red ey..

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Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphens are common throughout eastern and northern Australia, with a separate subspecies common in the extreme south-west of the country. You may also see Purple Swamphens frequenting the same areas as Dusky Moorhens and Eurasian Coots. You can tell a Purple Swamphen apart from sim..

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Quote

”Birds, bugs, lizards and penguins are my favourite Backyard Buddies – I like to find, watch and learn about what they do and what I can do to help them.“

Gus – 11 year old Backyard Buddy, NSW

Photo: OEH