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Growing up Mudhen

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve spent some time this summer in a few Rainwater Basin marshes surveying breeding birds.  Arguably the most common breeding species I observed was the American Coot.  My forays into the marsh allowed me to observe this species during its breeding cycle, from combative territorial squabbles between pairs to awkward chicks taking their first swim.  Coots are often referred to as mudhens.  They are duck-like, but they are not ducks.  They are members of the rail family and are more closely related to Sandhill Cranes than to Mallards. American Coots are under-appreciated and often ignored, unfortunately.  In an effort to raise their profile, I  am providing a series of shots showing different aspects of American Coots breeding cycle.

American Coot
An American Coot guarding its nest.  Note that the bird has puffed his feathers out to make its appearance seem larger than it is naturally.
An American Coot nest
An American Coot nest constructed of cattails and other marsh vegetation floats above the waterline.
coot chick
American Coot chicks are two parts cute and one part ugly.
Coot chick
A closer look at an American Coot chick.
American Coot chick
American Coot chicks will avoid being eaten by fleeing, taking cover or hiding.  This Coot chick remained motionless and partially submerged in a vain attempt to remain undetected.  Fortunately for him, I meant him no harm.
coot brood
Adult American Coots and their brood of seven.

Good birding!

Nongame Bird Blog

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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