These are American Coots.
These strange-looking water fowl appear rather clownish in appearance from their red nose and their light, conical bills to their pudgy bodies to their oversized, greenish feet.
They will dip and dive for tasty morsels by almost jumping completely out of the water and grabbing for whatever they can find beneath the surface with those massive, pale, yellow-green feet flopping and splashing behind them. At times they almost seem to be applauding themselves with their feet!
They have a tendency to need a running start on the water’s surface before they are able to get their stocky bodies airborne. On land they walk like Groucho Marx and seem very poorly designed for pedestrian travel.
All in all, they are just very amusing. And apparently extremely tasty.
Our Bald Eagles seem to love them. Ninety percent of Jim and Cindy’s diet is fish but they also love turtles, ducks and an occasional mammal. But Coots seem to add an element of fun! These feathered clowns flock together on the surface of Eastwood Lake increasing the odds of Jim and Cindy catching at least one of them. And when it comes to hunting Coots, our eagles use a team approach that I call Coot Scootin’. Both eagles will fly in together, one following the other. The floating Coots will see the incoming threat posed by the first eagle and panic. In a flurry of splashing, flapping and squawking, the startled Coots will scatter in all directions. This leaves a few isolated and confused Coots ripe for the picking. The second eagle arrives to harvest that crop. If the first attempt fails, the eagles twirl and spin and try again. It may seem cruel but that is the way it is in the wild. Almost everything fits somewhere in the food chain from the bottom to the middle or, like the eagle, the top. After successfully catching their prey it is time to dine.
The variety in wildlife is fascinating. It can be comical. It can be brutal. It can be gratifying. It can be tragic. It can be so many things, but when you see the balance and completeness of its design, it is always beautiful. There is raw beauty in wild things, even when Bald Eagles go Coot Scootin’.