Coots are common birds. Despite their soot-colored feathers, they are a striking appearance because the white beak gives a sharp contrast. They are found in almost any park and on any lake. Their big sloppy nests are quite easy to see for everyone because they are not really shy. Often they come together with the ducks when people feed bread in the park.
In spring, the coots make a nest of all kinds of material that can be found nearby. Cane, roots and plants, but also paper and plastic are used. They have six to ten eggs that hatch after 21 to 25 days. The hatchlings are black balls with a bald looking head with yellow feathers. The beak is red with a white can. The hatchlings are a bit more colorful then those of the moorhen which you can see in my post about birds in the garden. The hatchlings immediately leave the nest and are nursed by the parents. They can fly in about two months.
The big feet of the coots are an indication that they are marsh birds. With those big feet, they can walk smoothly on floating vegetation. With the partial webbing between their toes they can also swim well. They can fly, but they only do so night at night to travel larger distances. They usually swim or flutter over the water to move quickly. The Coot is an onivore. They mainly eat plants. But certainly when they have kids, they also eat small live prey and insects.
Some of the coots travel to warmer areas in winter. A part of Dutch coots travel to Spain and Portugal. And coots from more northern regions come to the Netherlands in winter. Although they mainly live as couples, they form large groups in winter to seek protection from the cold. On the Markermeer and the Veluwemeer you can see thousands of birds trying to keep a hole in the ice.