Fulica atra - Foulque macroule
- Size: 39 cm
- Wingspan: 70 à 80 cm.
- Weight: 575 à 800 g
The Eurasian Coot is a large water bird, larger than the Moorhen and less discreet. It has a very dark plumage, grey-anthracite, which can appear black from a distance, and against this black there is a white beak and forehead patch. This white is shaded with pink in the nuptial adult. The body is compact and rounded. The wings are short and rounded and fit the shape of the body. When open, the remiges are pale underneath and on top for the secondaries. The legs are somewhat disproportionate due to their adaptation for swimming. The toes have lobed phalanges which are quite spectacular for swimming. The tarsus and the feet are light grey with yellow stripes and even a bit of orange red on the heel. The chick when hatching is comical. It is covered with black down on the body, but its head is painted with red, orange, yellow and violet. The second down will be grey and the colours of the head will disappear in favour of grey on top and whitish underneath. The juvenile has a bicoloured plumage, medium grey shaded with brown on top and whitish underneath. The beak is yellowish and blackish. From summer, the beak will lighten becoming pinkish while the forehead patch enlarges. The young bird will become adult looking in the course of the autumn.
Subspecific information 4 subspecies
- Fulica atra atra (Europe and n Africa to Japan, India, se Asia, Philippines and Borneo)
- Fulica atra lugubris (Java, Bali, nw New Guinea)
- Fulica atra novaeguineae (nc New Guinea)
- Fulica atra australis (Australia, New Zealand)
Voice song and cries
Discretion is not really the Eurasian Coot's strong suit. It's a rather noisy bird, with a repertoire that's far from musical. It doesn't have a song and its calls are hard notes. It's only among pairs in the springtime that exchanges are more delicate. The most common cry in inter-individual interactions is a distinct tjek or kjek that can turn harsher and more raw with excitement, turning into a kjak or kjrak. Also, there's a sequence of kek kek kek kek.... The alarm call is a loud and repeated pit or pjit. Occasionally, a muffled kjhh like a sneeze can be heard. Juveniles beg for food with a long and insistent uiiiiiiiiiiih. Uniquely, the Eurasian Coot emits multiple pett pett pett...s by hitting its widened fingers on the substrate it resides on. These slightly exploding sounds are highly audible and serve as a cry of sorts, maybe a territorial one. Finally, when flying around during the night, the Eurasian Coot gives off an incredibly characteristic kjen ein ein ein ein or eeinn eeinn ein einnn which stands apart from the kep kep kep of the moorhen.
The Eurasian Coot is an aquatic species that occupies all kinds of free continental waters, both natural and artificial, in lowlands and mid-altitude zones during different seasons.
Behaviour character trait
The Eurasian Coot is a gregarious and social bird year-round. For reproduction, it is monogamous and territorial, but in the inter-season, birds are attracted as if by a magnet and can form gatherings of several thousand individuals.
The Eurasian Coot can only take off by running across the water like a diving duck. Their rapid, jerky and low-amplitude wing beats are however very different from those of ducks. Eurasian Coots are capable of making considerable nocturnal movements, mainly at night, as their direct and slow flight can attract predators such as Peregrine Falcon or Short-toed Snake Eagle.
During the springtime, the Eurasian Coot is mostly vegetarian. It mostly feeds on submerged plantlife, such as Characées and other higher plants such as potamots, myriophylles, buttercups, and other Polygonacées.
The Eurasian Coot is a monogamous and territorial species, often in conflict with its neighbours as nesting pairs are usually numerous and the contiguous territory.
The Eurasian Coot (Foulque macroule) of the nominal subspecies has a wide range which extends from the Atlantic Ocean to eastern Russia and Sakhalin longitude, both in temperate and tropical latitudes, such as the Indian subcontinent and the Persian-Pakistani region. It also occupies the Canary Islands and Azores. All birds in the northern part of the continent are migratory and winter around the Mediterranean basin, in North Africa to the south of the Sahara and throughout South Asia. There are three other subspecies: lugubris and novaeguineae in New Guinea and australis which occupies Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, where they are sedentary.
Threats - protection
IUCN conservation status
in the Wild
This species is not globally threatened. It has a wide range and populations count in the millions. However, in Europe, after a period of growth, the trend is on the decline. A figure of -30% in 21 years has been cited. Loss or degradation of habitat is thought to be the cause, as well as hunting in some countries. (info BirdLife International)
Sources of information
- IOC World Bird List (v13.2), Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2023.
- Guide encyclopédique des oiseaux du Paléarctique occidental, Mark Beaman, Steve Madge
- Rails, Barry Taylor
- Vol. 2 - Handbook of the Birds of the World, Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot--Jordi Sargatal
- Avibase, Lepage Denis
- BirdLife International, BirdLife International
- HBW Alive,
- Wikipedia (English version),
Translation by AI Oiseaux.net
published: 22-01-2021 - Updated: 23-01-2021
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