Fulica atra (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Gruiformes > Rallidae
This resident waterbird is widely distributed across Britain & Ireland, though absent from upland areas and much of western England and Wales.
Largely herbivorous in its diet, the Coot is a bottom feeder, seizing plant material and returning to the surface to eat it. Because of this, it is more commonly found on our shallower waterbodies. Although not adverse to running water, most Coot are to be found on lakes and larger ponds.
During the winter months, cold weather movements see our resident birds joined by individuals from further east. At this time of the year, Coot may also be seen grazing on short grass close to favoured waterbodies.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Coot
Coot identification is usually straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Coot.
Familiar waterbirds to many but have you ever struggled to tell the difference between Moorhen and Coot? You are not alone! Often found together they can cause ID headaches, especially when young birds are encountered.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Coot, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
CBC/BBS trends for Coot indicate a long-term increase, although the magnitude of the change is not clear and WBS/WBBS trends show a stable long-term trend. Small CBC samples, mainly of birds on small water-bodies, suggested a rapid rise in the late 1960s. WBS/WBBS and BBS include more birds on larger waters, and so may be more representative of Coot populations, but WBS/WBBS has not recorded the rapid long-term increase suggested by the CBC/BBS figures. Both trends show a more recent decline, with the five- and ten-year trends being downward in all indices, and the WBS/WBBS trend shows a moderate decline over the last 25 years. There has been an increase across Europe since 1980, although this trend should be treated with caution as the data from early years are based on limited coverage (PECBMS: PECBMS 2020a>). Winter abundance on large still waters showed shallow increase from the mid 1980s to around 2000/01 but has since declined in all four UK countries (WeBS: Frost et al. 2020).
|UK breeding population||+108% increase (1967–2020)|
|UK winter population||-25% decrease (1995/96 to 2020/21)|
Coots occur throughout most of England, Wales and Ireland, only becoming patchily distributed in upland regions. In Scotland they are highly localised outside the central belt.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||1717|
|% occupied in breeding season||57|
|No. occupied in winter||1762|
|% occupied in winter||58|
European Distribution Map
Breeding Season Habitats
|Most frequent in||Lakes|
|Also common in||Ponds|
Coots have disppeared as a breeding species from one third of their former Irish range, possibly as a consequence of drainage of wetlands since the 1970s. The range contraction in Britain is less severe and losses in the upland margins of Scotland and Wales are almost balanced by gains elsewhere in England.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||-5.4%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+2.2%|
Coots are widely reported and present year-round.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about Coot, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
|Number of Broods||1 (2)|
|Egg Size||52×36 mm Weight = 36.5 g (of which 9% is shell)|
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Maximum Age from Ringing||15 years 3 months 13 days (set in 1978)|
|Typical Lifespan||5 years with breeding typically at 2 year|
|Juvenile Survival||0.38 (in first year)|
|Wing Length||Adults||216.6±9.5 | Range 201–231mm, N=1052|
|Juveniles||212.7±9.5 | Range 198-228mm, N=243|
|Males||223.8±7 | Range 211–235mm, N=385|
|Females||206.2±5.8 | Range 196–214mm, N=242|
|Body Weight||Adults||880±178.9 | Range 630–1210g, N=411|
|Juveniles||807±151.2753 | Range 540–1080g, N=78|
|Males||971±164.1 | Range 700–1250g, N=178|
|Females||754±135.1 | Range 570–990g, N=77|
Feather measurements and photos on featherbase
|Field Codes||2-letter: CO | 5-letter code: COOT. | Euring: 4290|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about Coot from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
There are no demographic trends available for this species and very little evidence regarding the ecological drivers of change.
Further information on causes of change
There is very little information available regarding the demographic or ecological drivers of population change in Coot.
Demographic data are only available for most recent 15 years, corresponding to a period of decline, and indicate that nest failure rate has increased and there has been a corresponding decrease in brood size over this period.
Brinkhof & Cave (1997) conducted a supplementary feeding experiment and found that seasonal variation in offspring production was in essence the result of seasonal variation in food availability. Thus, increases in food supply may have improved breeding success, but there is no evidence to support this.
Work from Finland (Ronka et al. 2005) has suggested that Coot are sensitive to overwinter weather: thus it is possible that this species may have benefited from milder winters.
Information about conservation actions
The Coot has been increasing over the long-term and the recent downturn in the trend has been insufficient to prompt alerts on the headline (CBC/BBS) trend, and therefore specific conservation action to benefit this species is not currently required. However, given the slight downturn in the BBS trend, and the fact that alerts have been raised against the WBS/WBBS trends, ongoing monitoring is important and conservation actions may be needed in the future. The continuation of local management actions and policies to maintain and create good quality wetland habitats for wildfowl are likely to benefit this species.
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