Territorial boundaries and brood protection in an urban Coot (Fulica atra) population

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Fancy title, exciting post - honest.

It’s been a while dear reader, so let’s have some more behavioural observations of Coots! These shots are taken from a local park, which is bisected by the elevated M4 and is also under the flight path to Heathrow, but it’s nice enough. It ticks the small local park boxes and is enjoyable. And it is popular with rats. Lots of them. Hopping about in the daylight without a care in the world, getting fat on the discarded bread that is left out for the ducks. And the pigeons. And the Geese. And the Coots!

A Coot doing standing.

The behavioural observation is thus. On the small body of water (a good size pond really) there are breeding Mallard, Canada Geese and Coots. There are also regular Tufties and Pochard with the occasional Mandarin and Moorhen. There are three pairs of Coots, all seem to be breeding ok and their broods are at totally different stages of development. One is still on the nest, one has well grown but not independent young and the third has some fresh hatchlings.

A coot being a fledgeling.

Now when the humans come along and feed the birds, there is a fair bit of competition and the pecking order is in place, getting quite forceful at times, with the Canada Geese at the top of the order pecking anything that comes close to them including ducklings which suffer the most. The goslings and ducklings are brought into this melee to almost fend for themselves.

Two Coots doing agression

The coots however are much more diligent. The three pairs have reasonably well defined territories, which the adults meet at the edges of and have a bloody good scrap from time to time (well, they are Coots) but the young stay in the respective territory, away from the big food fight and away from any mental rival Coots. Which could drown them. The parents join in the food fight, but only for long enough to grab some food and then swim back to the respective territory to dispense the food before returning to the aforementioned melee. Thus they swim out to the pond, feed young, swim back, get food, swim off, feed young, etc etc. Mrs Thing was particularly taken by this persistence, and not surprisingly either.

The Coots on the Wandle may have been labelled as retards, but this bunch are far from it.

A Coot doing floating.


Anonymous said...



Related Posts with Thumbnails