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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What do coots eat?

Sometimes an observation reminds me how easy it is not to ask questions about what's around us.  I've seen American Coots (Fulica americana) frequently in Bodega Harbor, but I hadn't stopped to wonder what they might be eating.  

On 28 January I was watching shorebirds through a spotting scope and heard some unusual sounds — splashing, chuckling, slurping.  I looked up to see a large group of coots in a nearby tidal channel.  I took the photos below to try to see what they were eating (click on the pictures to see larger versions):

The first photo shows bright green pieces of sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) in their bills.  The coots then moved further upstream into a deeper part of the channel.  They became very active, leaping out of the water and diving beneath the surface (second photo).  When they emerged they had long green ribbons of eelgrass (Zostera marina) in their bills (third photo).

I don't know what else coots might be eating in this area (do you?), but these photos document at least two species that make up a portion of their diet on Bodega Head. 

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