Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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You Old Coot!

Growing up my dad was fond of folksy colloquial expressions. I've heard things declared "As useless as a screen door on a submarine", or one of his favorites, "Six of one, half dozen a dozen of the other". Ask him how' he's been and you'll likely get the reply "Fair to middlin'." I can't even begin to count how many times I was told I was "Skating on thin ice" as a kid. A lot of times these sayings commonly involve animals or birds, such as, "Dead as a Dodo", "Doesn't have the sense God gave geese", or "happy as ducks in Arizona". The title of this post, "You old coot!" is an expression used to describe a cranky, surly, or pesky old person. Coots got implicated in this negative expression because they are just so danged common and numerous. Duck hunters consider them pests and a distraction because of this commonness. The sheer numbers of coots make it difficult locate and shoot more attractive and sought after ducks. After all, no one wants an American Coot mounted above the fireplace and they are less than palatable to the taste buds.

American Coot

So to call someone an "old coot" is a way to deem them unwanted or unattractive. I for one don't think it's fair for coots to get such a bad rap. While they may not have the razzle dazzle of a Painted Bunting, they make up for it in personality and character. It's fun to watch these birds bebop around the pond and dive for food. One coot that has been around since the summer decided himself fit to stand in as a father figure for a Mallard hen and her brood. He would associate with the Mallards even when there were other coots on the pond. I'm not sure how accepted he was by the Mallards, they didn't seem to pay much attention to the stranger who was always lurking in the background.

American Coots

These birds may superficially look like ducks, but they actually belong to the family Rallidae, a group of water birds like the Virginia Rail or Purple Gallinule. Their swimming habits may also resemble ducks, but their bills do not. As you can see, their bills are more chicken-like than duck-like. Also, these birds have lobate feet, meaning each digit is surrounded but flat lobes and is not fully webbed like the feet of ducks.

American Coot

With the below freezing weather we've been having, the ponds have all but froze up. These three coots have been swimming non stop to keep this small patch of pond ice free. The water movement keeps the water from freezing so the birds have to be constantly moving to keep from getting frozen in the ice.

American Coot

Needless to say I was "Happy as a box of birds" to see these coots at the landfill. I think these guys are just "ducky". "A little bird told me" that if you want a "bird's eye view" of some of the best bird blogs, then "flock like birds of a feather together" over to the Pine River Review. Don't be "buzzard bait" and click the link below.

13 comments:

EmptyNester said...

I've never seen or heard of those kind of coots before. They are really pretty! Love that you incorporated those old sayings!

Greyscale Territory said...

These photos of coots are wonderful! They look great swimming around! A fun post!

Gary said...

Gee I think they're attractive. You're lucky to have them from an old coot. Great photos. Boom & gary of the vermilon River, Canada.

Springman said...

We don't have Coots in this "neck of the woods" so your wonderful series of pictures is fascinating for me to say the least.
Your post here is easily one of the best written articles I have read recently anywhere on any subject. Flat out funny. I could hear my own Dads voice who used those same expressions and that was profound for me. WOW!

theconstantwalker said...

I love Coots and watch them all the time in Cheshire. A nice post with lovely images. Thanks

The Early Birder said...

Excellent post Ryan. They may be 'common as muck' but still an interesting species to watch especially when they are walking on ice. FAB.

http://fabearlybirder.blogspot.com/2010/12/ice-walker.html

holdingmoments said...

I agree with Frank, an excellent post.

Our Coots over here, are very common too, and always seem to be fighting each other. Great characters though.

Lovely shots of them.

dreamfalcon said...

they are just a little different from the Eurasian Coot - Thanks for sharing.
Loved your end of the post!

Phil said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog, now I'm glad I returned the complement and saw your Coot pictures. A subtle difference to our own Coot.

Sally in WA said...

I didn't realize that difference about their beaks. I've never paid that close of attention. Thanks for the lesson today! Great shots.

Dixxe said...

Your Father sounds like my Mother! She has all sorts of "sayings" that she uses to express herself and being southern we really dont have a choice its part of our speech!.
I Love the COOTS always have, they are so cool with that white beak--
Great post enjoyed it very much.

Hilke Breder said...

Enjoyed reading your post. Nice images of the coots, well done, usually difficult to take because of the dark color.

Anonymous said...

Coots are also called mud hens. Like the baseball team in Toledo OH

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