Sunday, August 29, 2010

What a Cootie!

Australian Coot
Coots are one of the most widespread of bird families, with the Australian Coot having cousins in Europe, Asia and America, all sharing similar appearances and behaviour. The Australian species is a relative newcomer to our shores. The first breeding pairs were recordered around 1950, before that it was just a rare vagrant. Now it has dispersed throughout the country, and many lakes play host to two or three pairs of these smart black and white birds. The name "Coot" is thought to be derived from their piercing, one note call. They glide through the water, with jerking head movements and dive for pondweed. Their feet are webbed with small fleshy lobes . In breeding season a large pile of waterweeds is gathered together amongst the raupo and here the mother lays up to ten eggs. The chicks hatch as fluffy little purple-black featherballs, with bald, scarlet heads. As they grow, their briliant colouring is quickly lost, replaced with the smooth black plumage of the adult.

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