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American Coot

Fulica americana ORDER: GRUIFORMES FAMILY: RALLIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The waterborne American Coot is one good reminder that not everything that floats is a duck. A close look at a coot—that small head, those scrawny legs—reveals a different kind of bird entirely. Their dark bodies and white faces are common sights in nearly any open water across the continent, and they often mix with ducks. But they’re closer relatives of the gangly Sandhill Crane and the nearly invisible rails than of Mallards or teal.

Bird Festivals
Be a Better Birder Tutorial 4

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Find This Bird

You can find American Coots by scanning lakes and ponds for a small, all-black bird with a bright white bill. They may be at the edges, among vegetation, or out in open water; you may even see them walking around (not waddling) on land on their fairly long, yellow-green legs. In the winter, they can be found in massive flocks of coots and other waterfowl, sometimes numbering in the thousands of individuals.

Get Involved

Help us find out how American Coot populations are doing in mid-winter by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count

Look for American Coot nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch

Report your American Coot sightings to eBird

Are you watching American Coot in a city? Celebrate Urban Birds!