While the name American Coot may not ring a bell for many, when the Mudhen nickname is mentioned, the proverbial light bulb flashes!
American Coots or Mudhens (yes, like the Toledo minor league baseball team) are found all across the United States but are common in the marshes of Lake Erie. Mudhens have slate gray bodies, red eyes and an ivory bill with dark markings on the top and tip. They also have lobed feet instead of webbed feet. Mudhens are omnivores that eat plants, algae, insects, fish crustaceans and eggs. These tough, adaptable waterbirds can both swim and walk on land well. They are commonly found in flocks near shallow freshwater sources. Mudhens are known to be aggressive and noisy birds that have a large variety of calls and sound off often. Interestingly, Mudhens are known to fight each other with their feet, usually over territory.
The Zoo currently has an American Coot, supported by the Gary Marck family, on exhibit in Flamingo Key. Our bird staff suggests looking toward the back of the exhibit to spot the Mudhen!