Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Tim Provan
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The American coot, Fulica americana, occurs from Canada to Argentina; at least northern populations are migratory. In Utah, the species is common throughout the state in all seasons, but somewhat less common in winter. Its habitats include ponds, lakes, and marshes. This rail eats mainly aquatic vegetation, but also consumes mollusks, insects, worms, seeds, berries, and fruits.

The nest of the American coot can be: 1) on a floating platform of vegetation, 2) in emergent vegetation or on branches in or over the water, or 3) on the ground or in a low shrub near water. Two to fifteen eggs (usually five to nine) are incubated by both parents for nineteen to twenty-four days. The precocial young are tended by both parents and are able to feed themselves by one month of age; they become independent at eight weeks of age. The American coot is a cooperative breeder, with young of the first brood of the season frequently participating in the care of later broods.

Females of this species may sometimes lay their eggs in the nests of other females - that is, they apparently are brood parasites of their own species - and clutches of more than thirteen eggs are probably the result of such intraspecific parasitism. The American coot is, however, rarely the host of other parasitic species, such as the ruddy duck and the redhead.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American birds. 2nd ed. Academic, San Diego. 347 pp.

  • Peterson, R. T., and V. M. Peterson. 1990. A field guide to western birds, 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 432 pp.