This past weekend I provided a safe harbor for a wayward American Coot. While Coots are common through out much of Minnesota, they are normally hidden away in swamps and ponds.
I believe this was probably a young Coot that had gotten separated from the flock. For this bird to be out in the open on a big lake is unusual. Coots are prime bait for Bald Eagles. Down on the Mississippi, in southeastern Minnesota, Coots are regularly plucked out of the water by Eagles as they float on the river with huge rafts of waterfowl. I was happy to provide some safety in the Wild Rice that grows out in the lake.
Coots are interesting birds because they appear to be a duck-type bird when they are really in the Rail family along with Virginia Rails and Soras. Coots don’t have webbed feet like ducks, instead their toes are lobed. This helps them swim, but doesn’t help them take flight. Coots have to run across the water in a great effort to get airborn. Maybe that’s another reason they end up being Eagle bait. Eagles will search out the weak and infirm and sometimes harass them until they are exhausted.