By Contributing Author, Bev-Sue Powers, (

American Coot Head Shot

American Coots always make me smile. At a glance, they’re rather plain looking. But these very social ducks have their own beauty. They have more of a croak than a quack and a lot of personality! Their feet look like scalloped slippers to me, designed for support in soft, deep muddy conditions. And mud-running they expertly do! They love to be fed and race shamelessly towards you when they think you have some crumbs to share with them. They are surprisingly quick!

 American Coot Looking for Handout

They keep close together, rarely venturing from the flock independently. One day, I saw one waddle up to a group of 2–3 others, stop, and just stand there with its head bowed low. “What was it doing?”, I wondered. As I watched, others gathered close to the first, and also bowed their heads. But there was always at least one other who would start scratching those with bowed heads with its beak until they were satisfied. Then they would take turns scratching one anothers’ heads. Bowing was a signal of wanting to get a head rub! I wonder if that would work for me, too, LOL!

 American Coots gathering for head scratch trades

They start arriving in the Ballona Wetlands in October, a few at a time. The flock usually grows to about three dozen over a few weeks’ time. During the winter, you’ll find them in the Del Rey Lagoon, the Freshwater Marsh, and in Ballona Creek. By April, they’re gone, heading to Western Canada to breed. This time of year, I miss seeing them.