Coots are breeding on the lake

The Eurasian Coot is a common bird seen on almost every lake. Its plump, black body with white bill and frontal shield make it immediately identifiable. These birds are active during the day and are almost entirely vegetarian.

They can breed throughout the year, but mostly during spring and summer. The nest, a mound of vegetation usually gathered from nearby, is built by both sexes. The average number of eggs laid in a nest is six, but 14 eggs have been found in one nest. Incubation takes about 24 days and the young stay near the nest for a further week. The young are fed by the parents for five weeks but often stay near the parents for several months.

But if Eurasian Coots have so many babies, where are they all?

Predators take a great many coots. Besides introduced animals like foxes, cats and rats, one of the coot’s more common native predators is the Swamp Harrier. This large raptor patrols swamps and lakes looking for a meal. And coots make a great meal!

A Swamp Harrier may make a swift approach from behind and snatch a coot from the water. Or it may hover above a coot until the coot is too exhausted to dive under water any longer. It then drops down and lifts the coot off the water’s surface. The coot may then be taken to the harrier’s nest and shared amongst its babies.

Swamp Harriers are large, dark coloured birds with a prominent white patch on their rump. This patch is most easily seen when the bird is banking or flying away from you. They breed in spring and summer to match the increasing availability of their prey.

Swamp Harriers have an average of three young per year. The young are fed by their parents for six weeks and disperse at just seven weeks old. The young then teach themselves to hunt whatever prey they can find. If coot is available, coot will be on the menu.