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BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary

Fulica americana
American Coot

Scientific Name: Fulica americana Gmelin, 1789
English Name: American Coot
Classification / Taxonomy
Scientific Name - Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online:
Classification Level: Species
Species Group: Vertebrate Animal
Species Code: B-AMCO
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Craniata Aves Gruiformes Rallidae
Conservation Status / Legal Designation
Global Status: G5 (Apr 2016)
Provincial Status: S4S5B (Mar 2015)
BC List: Yellow
Provincial FRPA list:   
Provincial Wildlife Act:
COSEWIC Status: Not at Risk (May 1991)
SARA Schedule:
General Status Canada: 4 - Secure (2005)
Migratory Bird Convention Act: Y
Ecology & Life History
General Description: A dark henlike bird with a blackish head and neck, slate body (paler in juveniles), and a frontal shield that usually is small and maroon or dark brown (may become bulbous at peak of breeding season; a few have a white frontal shield); undertail coverts white on the sides, black in the middle; white trailing edge on wings; whitish bill; large feet with lobed toes (NGS 1983).
Global Reproduction Comments: Clutch size is 6-22 (most often 8-12 in North America; average about 6 in Hawaii). Incubation lasts 23-24 days, by both sexes. Young are tended by both parents, though brood may be divided between them. First flies probably at 7-8 weeks. Usually renests if first clutch is destroyed (Condor 95:273-281); easily able to produce many additional eggs (Auk 109:407-421).
Global Ecology Comments: Nonbreeding: often in groups (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Migration Characteristics:
(Global / Provincial)
    Local Migrant:
    Distant Migrant:
    Within Borders Migrant:
Y /
Y /
Y /
na /
Global Migration Comments: Generally arrives in northern breeding areas March-May, departs by October-November (in portion of range in which it is migratory, especially northern inland areas) (Bent 1926). Migrants arrive in Costa Rica generally by October, most depart by end of April (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
(Type / Subtype / Dependence)
Lakes / Lake / Facultative - frequent use
Lakes / Pond/Open Water / Facultative - frequent use
Ocean / Intertidal Marine / Facultative - frequent use
Ocean / Sheltered Waters - Marine / Facultative - frequent use
Ocean / Subtidal Marine / Facultative - occasional use
Other Unique Habitats / Estuary / Facultative - frequent use
Stream/River / Stream/River / Facultative - occasional use
Wetland / Bog / Facultative - frequent use
Wetland / Fen / Facultative - frequent use
Wetland / Marsh / Facultative - frequent use
Wetland / Swamp / Facultative - frequent use
Global Habitat Comments: Freshwater lakes, ponds, marshes, and larger rivers, wintering also on brackish estuaries and bays. Also on land bordering these habitats. Calm open water with plenty of algae and other aquatic vegetation (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Typically builds floating nest among marsh plants in 30-100 cm of water (Harrison 1979). In south-central Saskatchewn, nesting habitat and reproductive effort and success were greatly reduced during drought (Sutherland 1991).
Food Habits: Carnivore: Adult, Immature
Granivore: Adult, Immature
Herbivore: Adult, Immature
Invertivore: Adult, Immature
Piscivore: Adult, Immature
Global Food Habits Comments: Eats seeds, roots, and other plant material, insects, snails, small fishes, tadpoles, and other small organism; feeds on land and in water (at surface, by tipping up, and by diving) (Terres 1980).
Global Phenology:
Provincial Phenology:
(1st half of month/
2nd half of month)
Colonial Breeder: N
Length(cm)/width(cm)/Weight(g): 39/ / 724
Elevation (m) (min / max): Global: 
Endemic: N
Global Range Comment: BREEDS: east-central Alaska (casual), southern Yukon east through central Manitoba to Prince Edward Island, south locally to southern Baja California, Gulf Coast, Florida, Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica, West Indies (not Puerto Rico or Virgin Islands). WINTERS: Pacific coast, and north to the southwestern U.S., lower Ohio Valley, and Maryland, south throughout Middle America, southeastern U.S., and West Indies to Panama and probably Colombia. RESIDENT in Hawaii and in South America in the Andes from Colombia south to western Bolivia, northern Chile, and northwestern Argentina. (AOU 1983). Birds from North America apparently are regularly present as nonbreeding visitors in Hawaii (Pratt 1987).
Authors / Contributors
Global Information Author: Hammerson, G.
Last Updated: Dec 14, 1994
Provincial Information Author:
Last Updated:
References and Related Literature
American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th edition. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.
Banks, R. C. 1995. Taxonomic Validation for Bird Species on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Category 2 Species List. In Biological Survey Project, Patuxent Environmental Research Center, National Biological Service (compilers). Taxonomic Review of Category 2 Species.
Bent, A. C. 1926. Life histories of North American marsh birds. Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus. 135.
Berger, A. J. 1981. Hawaiian Birdlife. Second Edition. University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii. xv + 260 pp.
Byrd, G. V., et al. 1985. Notes on the breeding biology ofthe Hawaiian race of the American coot. 'Elepaio 45:57-63.
Campbell, R.W., N.K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J.M. Cooper, G.W. Kaiser, and M.C.E. McNall. 1990b. The Birds of British Columbia Vol. 2: Nonpasserines: Diurnal Birds of Prey through Woodpeckers. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC.
Eddleman, W. R., F. L. Knopf, B. Meanley, F. A. Reid, and R. Zembal. 1988. Conservation of North American rallids. Wilson Bulletin 100:458-475.
Harrison, H. H. 1979. A field guide to western birds' nests. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 279 pp.
Lang, A. 1991a. Status report on the American coot. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). 24 pp.
Lang, A. L. 1991b. Status of the American Coot, Fulica americana, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 105:530-541.
Pratt, H. D. 1987. Occurrence of the North American coot (FULICA AMERICANA AMERICANA) in the Hawaiian Islands, with comments on the taxonomy of the Hawaiian coot. `Elepaio 47(3):25-28.
Raffaele, H. A. 1983a. A guide to the birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Fondo Educativo Interamericano, San Juan, Puerto Rico. 255 pp.
Scott, J. M., and C. B. Kepler. 1985. Distribution and abundance of Hawaiian native birds: a status report. Pages 43-70 in Temple, S. A. (editor). Bird Conservation 2. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin. 181 pp.
Stiles, F. G. and A. F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, USA. 511 pp.
Sutherland, J. M. 1991. Effects of drought on American coot, FULICA AMERICANA, reproduction in Saskatchewan parklands. Canadian Field-Naturalist 105:267-273.
Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for definitions of the data fields used in this summary report.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 1994. Species Summary: Fulica americana. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: (accessed Feb 6, 2023).