"Oh my, what big feet you have, Mr. Coot!"
There are a lot of distinctive features to a coot, not the least of which are its feet. They are huge multi-lobed affairs, all the better for traversing spongy wetland plants and various floating debris. This American Coot was one of many consorting with hundreds of waterfowl of many species in an open lead in otherwise frozen Alum Creek Reservoir. I like coots - always have - and seized the opportunity to fire off some shots when this one ambled by, showing off its funny feet.
While the coot is a member of the rail family (Rallidae), it is certainly an odd duck amongst that crew. The other species, at least in our range, are highly secretive marsh dwellers such as the Sora, and Virginia Rail. Two of the biggest skulkers and hardest to see birds in North America are in this family, the Black and Yellow rails. I guess the extroverted coots make up for their brethren's shyness, and come out to let us appreciate the charms of the family. Come nesting season, though, coots become a bit harder to see, as they occupy dense marshlands. They're easy to hear though; a "singing" coot makes loud keening cries that carry for some distance.