Coots and Moorhens are fairly familiar birds of lakes, ponds and canals. They are both members of the Rallidae, a family which include Rails, like the Water Rail, and Crakes like the Corncrake. Here’s the Coot, Fulica atra, with its distinctive white ‘shield’ on its head. It’s what gave rise to the phrase ‘as bald as a Coot’, although my dad always used to say ‘as daft as a Coot’. I’m not sure where he got that one from.
I’ve enjoyed watching the Coots nesting at my local nature reserve this year:
Here’s a Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, with its distinctive red ‘shield’ and yellow-tipped bill. Can you see its pink tongue?
They can be quite vicious when they fight:
Moorhens also have distinctive yellow feet with red ankles. Their toes are huge, to help walking on all that boggy ground and not sink, and are long and slender.
This is one of my favourite ‘art’ photographs of a Moorhen.
It’s definitely one I’d recommend clicking on to see full screen. Go on, you know you want to. I didn’t buy a camera with so many pixels so you could look at my photographs as such small images.
This, however, is a view of a Coot’s feet. They have yellow with red ankles, too, but their feet are bluish-grey and have flaps by the sides of their toes as a kind of proto-webbed feet to keep them even more stable on boggy ground and perhaps give them even more propulsion while swimming.
That photo doesn’t really do them justice, does it? I’ll have to go back for a few more close-ups taken from a distance with my telephoto lens. I’ll get back to you, okay?