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!
Now that it’s August, Coots are going to be 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.
They may seem quiet and unassuming, but these striking birds live all over the world. Coots live in Australia, but also 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 to munch. 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. Don’t be surprised if a big group of Coots comes onshore to nibble at grasses or leaves.
Coots are extremely good divers. They can dive deeper than 7 m 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.
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 in your garden as rains can cause 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 thefeatherless 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.'