American Coot

ID Info
Silhouette RailsRails

American Coot

Fulica americana
  • ORDER: Gruiformes
  • FAMILY: Rallidae
Basic Description

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.

More ID Info
image of range map for American CootRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

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.

Other Names
  • Gallareta Americana (Spanish)
  • Foulque d'Amérique (French)
  • Cool Facts