On a recent visit to LaSalle Park in Burlington, I saw about 100 mallards sunning beside Lake Ontario at the marina. Mixed among them were some smaller, football-shaped black birds.
These birds had a white beak and frankly didn’t really look like ducks. A quick glance down at their amazing toes confirmed they weren’t ducks at all. They were coots.
American Coots Have Amazing Toes
Many water birds have attention-grabbing feet.
Wood Storks look like the paint has peeled off their toes but is still stuck on their legs.
Snowy Egrets look like they’re wearing yellow work gloves—which probably isn’t enough protection when standing on an alligator, but they do that too.
Anhinga’s feet look more like flapping bat’s wings than you’d expect.
American Coots have great toes. They’re a blue-green colour and they widen with flaps on either side. They look vaguely like water plants or maybe succulents. According to AllAboutBirds.org, having separated toes makes it easy for them to walk naturally on land. The lobes increase the width of the toes making them strong swimmers. The wide toes also act a bit like snowshoes to help them stay up on mucky soft swamplands.
Have you ever watched a crazy coot? Were you able to see their funky feet? Please share your experiences with a comment.