Coot, a lobe-footed bird of the order gralla-tores, family scolopacidce, and genus fulica. In this genus the bill is shorter than the head, strong, straight, and elevated, forming a broad shield on the forehead; the wings are short; the tail is very short and rounded; the tarsi are shorter than the middle toe; the toes are long, united at the base, lobed on each side, the inner toe with two, the middle with three, and the outer with four rounded membranous lobes; the hind toe is lobed its whole length. There are about a dozen species of the genus, scattered over the world, migrating from north to south in winter. The American or cinereous coot (F. Americana, Gmel.) is about 14 inches long, with an extent of wing of 25 inches; bill long, the back 1 1/2 inch; weight about 1 lb. The head is small, neck slender, body rather full; feet strong, tibia bare a little above the joint; the plumage is soft and blended. The bill is grayish white, with a dusky spot near the end; the general color of the upper parts is deep bluish gray, blackish on the head and neck, and olivaceous on the shoulders; rate quills are grayish brown, with darker tips; edge of the wings, outer margin of first quill, tips of outer secondaries, and lower tail covert white; tail brownish black; under parts light bluish gray.
They are found throughout North America, and in New England in the autumn, retiring south about No-vember. Their favorite resorts are the borders of ponds and rivers lined with thick reeds, to which they can fly on the approach of danger; they swim, dive, fly, and run well; they rise, however, with difficulty, fluttering the wings and striking with the feet to assist; they fly high, with quick motion of the wings. They feed, especially in the morning and evening, near the edge of the water and in the open lands bordering on the streams and lakes. The food consists of aquatic insects and plants, mollusks, small fish, worms, seeds, and even tender grass and leaves. In the south they are seen in flocks of several hundred. They probably breed in the northern states; the nest, built of decayed vegetable matter and sticks, is placed near the water among the reeds; it is sometimes carried away by inundations, when it floats without injury to the eggs or displacing the female; the eggs are from seven to ten in number, ash-gray in color, spotted minutely with black, and the young take to the water as soon as hatched. A common name for this species is the mud hen.
They are abundant in the New Orleans market in winter, and are much used as food by the poorer classes, who skin instead of plucking them. - In New England the name is improperly given to several species of duck, especially to those of the genus oidemia; among the species thus named are the scoter duck (0. Americana, Swains.), white-winged or velvet duck (O.fusca, Swains.), and black or surf duck (0. perspicillata, Flem.).
American Coot (Fulica Americana).