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A photo of a American Coot (Fulica americana)
American Coot

American Coot

Fulica americana

The American coot (Fulica americana), also known as the mud hen or pouldeau, is a medium-sized waterbird that is a member of the Rallidae family. It is often mistaken for a duck but is only distantly related. The coot has a distinctive white bill and frontal shield, with a body length ranging from 34 to 43 cm and a wingspan of 58 to 71 cm. Both sexes appear similar, though males are slightly larger.

Identification Tips

Adult American coots possess a stout white bill and a white frontal shield, often with a reddish-brown spot near the top. Juveniles are marked by olive-brown crowns and a grey body, maturing to adult coloration at around four months. The coot's lobed toes are a unique feature, aiding in terrestrial locomotion.


American coots are commonly found in freshwater environments such as reed-ringed lakes, ponds, marshes, and sluggish rivers. They can adapt to saltwater habitats during winter months.


This migratory bird is widespread across North America, inhabiting the Pacific and southwestern United States and Mexico year-round, with northeastern regions hosting them during the summer breeding season. In winter, they can reach as far south as Panama.


Coots are highly sociable, especially in winter when they form large flocks. They exhibit various on-water formations and are known for their aggressive defense of territory and offspring.

Song & Calls

The coot's vocal repertoire includes a range of calls with males and females producing distinct sounds. Alarm calls differ between sexes, with males emitting a "puhlk" and females a "poonk."


Breeding occurs in May and June, with coots building floating nests in concealed locations. They are monogamous, with both sexes sharing in nest construction and incubation. Clutch sizes average 8-12 eggs.

Similar Species

The American coot can be confused with other coot species, but its white bill and frontal shield, as well as its distinctive calls and aggressive displays, help differentiate it.

Diet and Feeding

Omnivorous by nature, coots primarily consume algae and aquatic plants, supplementing their diet with arthropods, fish, and other aquatic animals during the breeding season.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the American coot as "Least Concern." They are common and widespread, and their meat is not highly sought after by hunters, which may contribute to their stable population numbers.

American Coot Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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American Coot Fun Facts

Did you know?
Although American Coots look and behave like ducks, they don't have webbed feet.

American Coots on Birda


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