Coot’s feet


It was an odd request (but it came from a subscriber to this blog):

[T]here are two deadheads by the water’s edge where the American Coots are climbing out and playing a version of Coot of the Castle. The green legs of the water chicken are stunning….¬†Please present some pictures at your leisure.

At the waterfront, there are flocks of hundreds of coots amongst various species of ducks: mallards, scaups, wigeons, redheads…. At first look, it is difficult to realize that despite their proximity, a coot isn’t just another duck. Indeed, it isn’t a duck at all. The fact that it looks somewhat like them is just a case of convergent evolution: the process by which really distantly related organisms evolve similar body forms when exposed to similar conditions. Coots are actually members of the Gruiform Order (which includes cranes and rails) and are closely related to moorhens — thus the reference to the water chicken.¬†

All of this might seem a tad academic, until one sees the coot’s feet. Unlike the Anatidae Order (which contains swans, geese and ducks) all with webbed feet, coots have individual toes with broad lobes to facilitate swimming — thus the reference to their legs.

Two coots sit on a deadhead. One displays its lobed toes.


This entry was posted in birds. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Coot’s feet

  1. I am Sam I am says:

    Green legs and flam to me but probably tastes like chicken to everyone else. Thank you to the factotem of this site.

  2. Allan Hobden says:

    Good request…fine answer and pic!….for us old `coots..

  3. Karen Pidcock says:

    Some toes those!
    Thanks, Alistair,

  4. Irene McIlwaine says:

    Thanks for this. I had no idea that such fine feet and long legs are under those wee black birds.

Comments are closed.