American coot

Fulica americana

Although it looks a bit like a duck, the coot is actually more closely related to a group of marsh birds known as rails. Coots are good swimmers and spend much of their lives dabbling on open water. They tend to cluster together and have been observed in Minnesota in flocks of 50,000 or more.


General description: The American coot is a dark, duck-like bird.

Size: Coots are about 15 inches long.

Color: Coots are black or dark gray, with a chicken-like white bill, red eye, and small red spot at the top of its bill. They have a white edge on their wings, and white under their tail. Their legs and feet are green.

Sounds: Coots make many different noises. Sometimes they make a ku-ku-ku-ku sound. They also grunt, cluck, and croak.


Coots build floating nests in marshes or shallow lakes. The female lays nine to 12 eggs, light with brown spots. The eggs hatch after 21 to 25 days. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the young. The young fledge at about 50 to 55 days. Coots raise only one brood per year.


Coots eat a variety of food such as insects and plants, ducking down on the water's surface, diving to the bottom, even nibbling on land.


Mink, raccoon, fox, various birds of prey.

American Coot

Habitat and range

In the summer coots can be found in the prairie areas of Minnesota. Some also live in southeastern Minnesota along the Mississippi River. Some coots overwinter in Minnesota in places where they can find open water.

Population and management

Coots benefit from wetlands restoration and many other waterfowl habitat improvement projects. The regulated hunting of coots is allowed in Minnesota and other states.

Fun facts

Coots take a long time to take off in flight. When they try to launch themselves, they have to run along the surface of the water for a while before they become airborne. Although they often fly only a short distance, they migrate as far south as Central America.

Range Map

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