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American Coot

Above: American Coot (photo by Bob Shettler)

What does It Look Like?

This rail is conspicuous among water birds, with its all-black plumage, white sloping bill and undertail coverts and red eyes.  Like other rails, it has oversized feet for walking on marsh vegetation.

Above: American Coot (photo by Cam Nikkel)

Does It Migrate?

Wintering populations occur throughout much of the United States (excluding some mid-northern states), and southward into Central America.  American Coots can be found year-round in many of these areas.  See here for range map: American Coot Range Map, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Above: American Coot (photo by Peter Taylor)

Where Does It Live?

The American Coot is a denizen of boreal lakes and marshes, sloughs, and prairie wetlands.  The breeding range is extensive (see Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas - Atlas des oiseaux nicheurs du Manitoba for details).  In Manitoba, its breeding territory extends from The Pas south to the Prairie Pothole region, with scattered reports from the Interlake region and southeastern Manitoba.

Where Can I See It?

Almost anywhere in appropriate habitat.  Locations such as Oak Hammock Marsh, Shoal and Whitewater lakes and The Pas are reliable places to find them, particularly in fall migration.

Above: American Coot (photo by Garry Budyk)


This species has been a very successful breeder throughout its range and there are no current conservation concerns.

Above: American Coot juveniles (photo by Garry Budyk)

Did You Know?

Breeding birds have enlarged frontal shields (a fleshy bump extending from the upper mandible to the forehead), and retain these as long as they remain paired (whether on breeding territory or territorial residents).