Common coot

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The common coot (Fulica atra) is a medium sized water bird belonging to the crake and rail family, Rallidae. The Common coot is distributed in Europe, Africa, Asia, Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia. It inhabits slow moving water bodies, pools, ponds, reservoirs, barrages, rivers, river delta, fishponds and freshwater and saline lagoons. There are four recognized subspecies of the common coot.

Taxonomy of Common coot

  • Scientific Name: Fulica atra
  • Common Name: Common coot
  • French: Foulque macroule; German: Blässhuhn; Spanish: Focha común;
  • Other names: Fulica prior De Vis, 1888 Eurasian Coot; Australian Coot;
  • Family: Rallidae › Gruiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: Linnaeus, 1758
The four recognized subspecies of common coot are: F. a. australis Gould, 1845, F. a. atra Linnaeus, 1758, F. a. novaeguineae Rand, 1940 and F. a. lugubris S. Müller, 1847. Fulica atra is closely related to F. cristata, F. alai, F. americana, F. leucoptera and F. ardesiaca.


The common coot is medium sized bird, having partial webbing on their long strong toes. It weighs 600 to 1200 grams and its total length is 35 to 40 cm. It has largely black plumage, which is paler in young birds. The adult birds have a white frontal shield. The bill is whitish or very pale pink. The legs are shorter and stronger when compared to other rail species and are greenish gray in color. The coot hatchlings have reddish plumage on the head and face. Its call is a loud hissing, crackling or trumpeting sound.
Birds of India - Common coot - Fulica atra
Indian birds - Common coot - Fulica atra
Indian birds - Common coot - Fulica atra
Birds of India - Common coot - Fulica atra
Birds of India - Common coot - Fulica atra
Indian birds - Common coot - Fulica atra
Indian birds - Common coot - Fulica atra
Birds of India - Common coot - Fulica atra


These common coot species inhabit slow-flowing rivers, eutrophic lakes, ponds, water bodies with marginal, submerged, emergent or floating vegetation, creeks, open marshes, saline estuaries, fish ponds and flooded plains.

Diet and feeding habits

The primary diet of these coot species is plant matter like algae, the vegetative parts of aquatic plants and reeds, grass, seeds, cereal crops, flowers, berries, buds and moss. They also feed on small fiish, mollusks, shrimp, aquatic insects and larvae, small frogs, small birds and mammals. Their feeding habit includes grazing on land, near water-edge or diving in water.


These coot species usually breed during February to September in Europe. In the Indian subcontinent they breed during May to September. The nest is made with plant material like reeds, leaves and grass. The nest is constructed as floating nest, raised platform or on bushes and trees up to three meters above the water. The clutch may have up to ten eggs. There is much mortality among the coot chicks due to predation and starvation. The young coot chicks are highly dependent on parents for food.


The common coot subspecies F. a. atra is distributed in Europe, North Africa, Central Asia, Indian subcontinent, Japan, Southeast Asia and Philippines. The subspecies F. a. lugubris is distributed in Indonesia (East Java) and New Guinea. The subspecies F. a. novaeguineae occurs in New Guinea. The subspecies F. a. australis (Australian Coot) occurs in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.

Movement and migration Patterns

These coot populations are mostly resident. The northern populations in Europe and Asia are fully migrant and make wintering southward movements from mid-August to November. The return movement to the breeding grounds occurs from February to May. The resident coot species move locally within their range for foraging and breeding.

Conservation status and concerns

These coot species global population is estimated to be around 8,900,000-9,800,000 individual birds. The overall population trend is considered to be decreasing. However, as it has a very large range, it is considered not Vulnerable. The loss of wetlands and marshes due to human activities is the main threat to the survival of these coot species. Hunting, poisoning, pollution from oil and petroleum, drowning in freshwater fishing nets, predation by introduced species of carnivores and avian influenza are the other threats to its survival.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these coot species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Fulica atra
Species:F. atra
Binomial name:Fulica atra
Distribution:Pakistan, Indian subcontinent, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia;
Diet and feeding habits:primarily feeds on plant matter include algae, seeds, grass, shoots and berries; also feeds on small fish, aquatic insects and larvae, mollusks, shrimp, worms and land insects;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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