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What in the world of ol’ coots is happening here?

A little over a week ago I was out birding (something I tend to do in my free time).  I was out in the Rainwater Basin in Butler County and I was going to swing by a wetland that is bisected by a county road.  As I approached, there were several American Coots walking on the road, which is not unusual.  Most of the coots skedaddled back to the water as I got closer, except for one.   One coot seemed to be tethered down and even though it appeared to try to flee, it was stuck.   I got right up next to the bird and I quickly noticed it appeared to be stuck in a hole.   Below are a couple of photos showing what I observed.

So what was going here?   Clearly something had a hold of the coot and wasn’t letting go, but what?   I had a couple of ideas, but the answer wasn’t readily apparent to me so I described the situation and showed the photos to fellow biologists Mike Fritz and Sam Wilson.  Both independently concluded the most likely explanation was that the bird was in a fight for its life with a mink.  As I was taking photos, the mink apparently got spooked and released the coot.  The coot quickly escaped and found refuge on the water.  It was not my intent to interfere with the interactions between these two animals, but it was apparently a consequence of my curiosity.

With a future post, I’ll show that the water may not always be a refuge for American Coots.

Good birding!

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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