American Coots – a hoot at Seward Park

A new bird for me! So different I had to get my bird books out when I got home.

It is no duck as one may think but rather an American Coot. They are a distant relative to the ducks but are really related to the Rail Family. They are nicknamed mudhen.

American Coot – dark bird with white bill & weird feet

They were hanging out on the shore of Lake Washington at the north end of Seward Park peninsula. I came out of the woodland trail after seeing the biggest eagle nest I have ever encountered.  The lady at the Audubon Store told me where to find it.  All I can say is she was right … you could fit a VW bug in it.

As I had walked thru the woods nearing the water I heard an eagle call and there up in a fir tree perched a pair. By the time I got to a place where I could get a good photo, they were gone. Yes that is the bane of bird photography. Do I take a sort of OK picture and get something or quickly go to a better vantage and then get nothing.

However, my finding this large flock of Coots was even more enticing than a distant eagle shot. A new bird for my list is always an exciting moment.

Check out the coot on the rock with big feet

When I first got there they were on the shore and swimming in a long band along the water’s edge. I got this photo with the city as a backdrop.

Coots on beach with Seattle in distance

A small seaplane landed in the background and headed to the shore. I think it was a practice thing for the pilot.

Seaplane off Seward Park with American Coot Flock

About this time a lady walked down to the their beach and they all swam off into a big mass of Coots. Off to the west the seaplane grounded and then the two guys used a paddle to get far enough off shore to get going again.

Paddling seaplane to get off beach

When they got far enough off shore they started their engine and the Coots massed closer together. The long strung out line of them pushed into a tighter group from both sides. Here is a little video of what all this activity looked like. Plus you can get a sense of how large this flock was when I pan out for a panorama type view with the city in the background.

Then the plane motored out of site to get a good run for takeoff. The coots at that point spread out and went back to business of finding an afternoon snack.

Coots expand out after seaplane passes

That Cormorant on the buoy made me giggle. He had his wings spread to dry them and the coots were circling. I had to think he was either preaching to his flock or was the maestro of a great bird band.

The Cormorant maestro over his American Coot orchestra.

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