What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #27 Eurasian Coot

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#27 Eurasian Coot
(Fulica atra)

This small bird of aquatic environments is common on lagoons and swamps that have some vegetation on or around them The Eurasian Coot can be found as the name suggests across Eurasia, Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia with it being an introduced species to New Zealand. Eurasian Coots become less common in the drier regions of Australia and the north of the country.

The Eurasian Coot can be easily be recognized by its white beak and patch on the forehead. The dark grey almost black colour is in contrast to its bright red eye. Juvenile birds are usually a paler form of the adult.

Like many species of bird that utilise the aquatic environment as their preferred habitat the Eurasian Coot finds it food underwater as well as on land. In the water it will dive underwater in search of its food and can dive to over 5 metres in search of suitable aquatic vegetation. They will also feed on invertebrates, worms and small fish although doesn’t form a large part of their diets.

Breeding occurs during favorable conditions and with many species this can lead to multiple broods. Eurasian Coots defend their territories during the breeding season from invasion by not only other coots but also other birds within the area. Like the Purple Swamphen (What’s Lurking In Your Backyard #26) their nests are built on floating vegetation or in close proximity to the water and nests of other species may be utilised rather than build their own nests. Both sexes take responsibility for incubation and care of the eggs and young.

© Habitat Ecology 2013

Eurasian Coot

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