Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Duck Test

Many non-birders look at the coot and think: "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."

American Coot
American Coot. Dixon Lake, Escondido, California. April 15, 2016. Greg Gillson.
A closer look however, reveals several characters that do not match a duck.

First, note the white chicken-like pointed bill with the frontal shield up the forehead. That is not at all like the spatulate bill found on most ducks.

And "quack"? Nope. The loud grating call could not really be called a quack.

It does swim. And it may appear to swim like a duck above the water. But below the surface are some "not duck" toes! Ducks have webbed feet--webbing between the front toes, but coot have individually flattened toes.

American Coot. Kit Carson Park, Escondido, California. April 10, 2016. Greg Gillson.
Coot toes
Coot toes.
Conclusion: NOT a duck.