pixabay Lizenz Alexas_Fotos (https://pixabay.com/de/photos/blässhuhn-wasservogel-tierwelt-3713728/)



The coot is a medium-sized, roundish rail with a body length of 36 to 42 cm, which is usually found swimming duck-like on the water, lying relatively high in the water. The head is relatively small, the tail short. The beak is about 30 mm long, white or slightly pinkish, pointed with a curved ridge and a strong base. The eponymous blaze is a bright white horny shield above the beak that covers the forehead and varies in size individually, age-wise and between the sexes. At 14 to 30 mm long, it is usually slightly shorter than the beak and between 6 and 19 mm wide. Looking at the head in profile, the indentation between the upper beak and the shield forms an acute angle, in contrast to other species such as the comb coot. The feet are strong and the long toes are webbed. The iris is red to dark brown-red in colour. The sexes do not differ in plumage. Males usually have a larger forehead shield than females, but this is not a reliable distinguishing feature due to individual variation. When both stand side by side, a slight difference in size is noticeable. 

Adult birds show a slate grey to blackish plumage on the back, with a brownish to olive shimmer. The throat and lower neck are darker, the head and neck velvety black. The underpart is grey to grey-brown. There are very fine (not visible in the field) whitish lace fringes on the breast and belly. The brown-black primaries have whitish tips, the outermost a fine white outer fringe. The wing feathers are predominantly blackish. There is an olive-brown tinge on the inner greater coverts, a white fringe on the front edge of the wing and - a feature noticeable in flight - a white fringe on the rear edge of the secondaries. The underwing coverts are grey to light grey and show white tips in the area of the hand wing. The rectrix are brownish black. The legs are pale ash-grey, pale greenish yellow or bright yellow. The heel joint becomes a stronger golden brown with age. The toes and webbed lobes are pale olive with dirty blue-green joints. The margins of the lobes are lead-grey to blackish.


The coot breeds on standing or slow-flowing waters with shallow banks and suitable riparian vegetation for nesting, such as a well-developed reed zone or bushes protruding into the water. Optimally, there should be open water areas in addition to shallow, herbaceous areas. The water must have a high or medium nutrient content. Particularly nutrient-poor waters are largely avoided - the species is therefore often absent from mountain lakes. While brackish water lagoons are quite accepted, the coot does not breed on the seashore.

Since the size of the water body plays a subordinate role, the coot is sometimes also found at small forest ponds or at flooded areas in broken forests. The species is also tolerant of its surroundings. It can also be found at water bodies in closed forest areas or in cleared landscapes. However, it prefers a mosaic of reedbeds, wet grassland, small hills or islets and scrub.

In Central Europe, the coot breeds in eutrophic shallow lakes, fishponds and sewage ponds, on silted-up bogs or drainage ditches, gravel pits, quarry ponds and retention basins, on slow-flowing rivers and oxbow lakes. It is also frequently found in residential areas, where it occurs, for example, at ponds in parks.

The text is a translation of an excerpt from Wikipedia (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blässhuhn). On wikipedia the text is available under a „Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike“ licence. Status: 17 December 2021