Counting Coots

Some birds, common in one area of the country can be quite scarce in another. When my good friend Simon checked a small loch a short ride from his home in Speyside, to year-tick Coot, he was taken by surprise.

Coots are scarce in this part of Scotland and Loch Flemington usually has a couple of pairs. As Simon scanned the water he found a Coot that looked a little unfamiliar. It had white undertail coverts like a moorhen, a reduced white shield and a black band around the bill; all features of American Coot, but there have only been eight records of American Coot in the UK. It was late in the day so he took a few photos and later sent them to a local friend. Simon knew others would be interested and he wanted to be sure of his identification, it was important to eliminate the possibility of a Moorhen/Coot hybrid. Identification was confirmed and the bird was still there the following day so the news was released.

Being in Scotland last week we thought a visit to the loch was worth the journey. In strong bright early morning sunshine we eventually found the American Coot as it swam into its usual small bay. Although for a short while it did have us thinking it had gone.

American Coot


American Coot 1


4 Responses to “Counting Coots”

  1. February 19, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Great shots! Interestingly, the American Coot looks quite similar to the European Coot except for the white forehead shield of the latter. This is hardly explainable by an evolutionary advantage, isn’t it?

    • February 19, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      Thank you. Good point. The changes including the white undertail coverts are only slight ones but are typical when a species becomes isolated. It maybe to a female American Coot these differences are just the ‘bees knees’ – we can’t directly identify all adaptations to physical environmental differences. Take the differences between a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler for instance. The longer wings are an undoubtable adaption to the longer migration undertaken; but the leg colour and the song difference? Not so easily explained. Everything has a reason but some reasons are perhaps beyond our understanding … for the moment.

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