Another necessity of life is reproduction.  For the American Coot the process is pretty much the same as for most birds.  Both sexes participate in mating calls and gestures, they will breed, the female will lay eggs, and both parents will take care of the young until they are ready to do so for themselves.  There is an interesting evolutionary adaptation where the American Coot can tell if the egg that hatches is not their own.  To learn more about this check out Interactions of the American Coot.

American Coot chicks from


Reproduction starts with finding a mate.  In the case of the American Coots both the male and female coots will show off for potential mates.  One such body posture that is used is a bowed head.  This represents the basic form of courtship displays in the search for a mate.  Billing is another body gesture used between potential mates during the search for a mate and also for recognition of the young by the parents.  Once billing occurs, bowing is next.  The obedient Coot starts by going into a bow and presenting its head or neck to the dominant Coot for it to begin nibbling.  During the nibbling process the dominant bird runs its beak through the feathers of the other bird.  Sometimes the beak is completely buried in the back feathers of the other bird.  Both females and males can also stand on a platform of some kind out in the water and try to impress Coots that swim by.  All of these actions are very important in finding a mate and courtship.

Drawing of bowing and nibbling by American Coots by me (Caitlin Spohnholtz) derived from


An example of billing between parent and chick from the search for a mate both sexes of Coots will also make calls to attract members of the opposite sex.  Males are mostly limited to a cough sounding call.  If during a chase where the male is chasing the female and the female does not want to participate in mating activity with that male she will stop flying, turn to face him and deliver a "tack, tack" call.  That call stops the chase and both Coots continue doing what they were doing before the chase.  The female has a nicer sounding call than the male.  When the female is on a platform looking for a mate she will make low, nasal sounding "punt, punt" or "put, put" calls or a sharper, clearer "tuk, tuk" call.  Also while in the pursuit for a mate the Coots will splash around in the water and make chirping type calls to each other.

Drawing of an American Coot bowing as a gesture by me (Caitlin Spohnholtz) derived from


Once a mate has been found and courtship occurs, the male and female will build a nest together.  These nests are floating nests at the edges of marshes, swamps, or ponds.  The nest is sturdy and will not float away because it is held down by vegetation the Coots can find.  Since the American Coot is a migratory bird every year when it returns to a breeding ground it will have to make a new nest since the nest previously made will not be as strong or even present at the water edge.

May and June are the breeding months for the American Coot.  This is the start of summer and when the American Coots return to the northern United States and southern Canada from their southern trip.  The female lays anywhere from 8 to 12 pinkish-brownish spotted eggs.  The eggs will hatch in about 21 to 25 days.  In the meantime both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs and getting food.  While the male is at or around the nest he will be very territorial and will be aggressive in protecting his nest and eggs.  When the eggs hatch the parents will also take turns in taking the young out to get food and play around.  Soon after the young Coots hatch they are able to swim and follow the parents almost everywhere.  After about 50 to 55 days (about two months) the young Coots are ready to leave the nest and make their own family.  American Coots only raise one brood (a group of eggs) per year.

American Coot family from Coot incubating its eggs in the nest from








Click here to learn how these baby Coots will eat.

Click here to learn about how the American Coot reacts to other organisms.

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