Fulica atra - Common coot:

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Summary Information
Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Gruiformes / Rallidae / Fulica / Species
Alternative Names European coot, Bald-headed coot, Meerkoet (Dutch), Foulque macroule (French), Blässhuhn (German), Focha común (Spanish), Sothöna (Swedish) (B19, B104, B107.w1)
Description Weight:
  • Fulica atra atra Male 610-1200 g av. 902g, Female 610-1150 g, av. 770g


  • 36-39 cm

External Appearance:

  • "Black with a white bill"
  • Adult: . Head gloss black. Upperparts slate black shading to flanks and underparts slightly paler dark grey. Wing black with flight feathers having inner webs paler grey and secondaries finely tipped white. Legs greenish Eyes red.Bill white, continuing into white frontal shield on forehead
  • Immature non-breeding: Similar to adult, but paler, more olive-brown, may have abdomen and vent area off-white. Eye brown, Legs dull greenish grey.
  • Juvenile: Head dark grey and white, with crown and hindneck black, throat mainly white. Upperparts and flanks dark olive-brown. Breast mainly white, underparts grey shading to whitish centrally.
  • Downy: Head: crown sparse-black, remainder of head and neck orange-tipped black. Body black, with yellow tipping on mantle and wing. Bill red, bill with white tip, frontal shield red, with blue spot above. Eye brown, Legs dark slate-grey.

(B104, B107.w1)

Range and Habitat
  • Fulica atra atra Europe, North Africa, Azores, Canaries, eastwards through Central Asia to Japan, south to Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka. Winters to western and north-eastern Africa, south-east Asia and the Philippines.
    • In London: In the London Area,  "very common breeding resident and winter visitor." Found on a wide variety of reservoirs, lakes and ponds. In Inner London, found in various parks, on canals and at Surrey Docks. (J322.65.w1)
  • Fulica atra lugubris northwestern New Guinea, possibly eastern Java.
  • Fulica atra novaeguinea central New Guinea.
  • Fulica atra australis Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand.

Accidental: Alaska, Labrador, Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Spitzbergen, Faeroes.

Habitat: Large, still or slow-moving waters prefered, with shallow water, room to dive, mud-bottom and plentiful vegetation - marginal, emergent, floating, submerged. May be found on lakes, reservoirs, pond, gravel pits, canals, dykes, rivers, creeks, open marshes, salt-pans etc., including lakes and pools in towns. Makes use of temporary pools and marshes for breeding. Makes little use of cover. In winter may be found on quiet estuaries and inshore waters, also lakes and reservoirs. Mainly lowlands, but also found at higher altitudes if suitable waters.

(B19, B104, B107.w1)

Further Information
  • Food: Omnivorous, but major part of diet plant materials. Seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic and sometimes terrestrial plants, algae. Also worms, leeches, molluscs, shrimps, larvala and adult insects, spiders, fish, birds and bird eggs, small mammals, frogs. Graze in groups on land.
  • Mainly diurnal, also active on brightly-lit nights.
  • Breeding: Europe February to September, mainly March to July. North Africa March to June, Kashmir and north India May to September, South India November to December, Australia mainly August to February, New Zealand September to February.
  • Breeding behaviour: Both parents build nest, incubate and care for chicks; may split brood temporarily or permanently. Average clutch size 6-10 eggs, hatching asynchronous, brooded on nest for three to four days.Young fed by parents for up to two months although also self-feeding by 30 days. Fledge 55-60 days, independent by six to eight weeks, may remain in parents' territory upto 14 weeks.
  • Social Behaviour: Often in pairs. May be found in large flocks outside breeding season, although some pairs retain territory year-round.

(B19, B104, B107.w1 )

Organisations (UK Contacts):

Electronic Library (further reading):

General Legislation:

  • This species is listed on Schedule 2 - Part I (Birds which may be killed or taken outside the close season, 1 February to 31 August except where indicated otherwise: Notes on the revised schedules state "NOTE: The close season for ducks and geese when below high water mark is 21 February to 31 August") of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
  • This species is listed on Schedule 3 - Part 3 (Birds which may be sold alive at all times if ringed and bred in captivity: Notes on the revised schedules state "Birds which may be sold dead from 1 September to 28 February (NB: It is illegal to offer for sale at any time of the year any wild goose, moorhen, gadwall or goldeneye, although they are legitimate quarry species outside the close season)) of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)

Individual techniques:

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