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Gallery Page 5 – Coots in cahoots


The birds you see here are the common coot, Fulica atra, which is similar to the American coot Fulica americana, only with a ‘balder’ appearance, as the white headshield is higher in the Eurasian version, leading to the expression ‘as bald as a coot’. The term ‘coot’ in itself is in all likelihood onomatopoeic in English, as one common noise the bird makes, among a large playlist of other calls and alarms made by the splashing of its specialised lobed feet, is like the syllable ‘coot’. The only language that shares with Engolish the name ‘coot’ is Dutch, which calls the bird ‘Meerkoet’. The German term is ‘Blaesshuhn’, the Scandywegian languages are ‘blishoene’ and ‘sothoene’, but don’t ask me which is which, the Russian is Lysukha’ and the Polish is ‘Lyska’, and the Romance languages show mainly variants on the latin ‘Fulica’ (Fr. ‘Foulque’, Sp. ‘Focha’ , It. ‘Folaga’)

Coots wintering on the Vistula near Plock – Photo taken at Nowy Duninow, December 2004

These coots are resting together on the retention reservoir which has been made in the Vistula River between Plock and Wloclawek in a ribbon several birds deep and several kilometres long, strongly calling to mind the appearance of the band of rooks in migratory flight over Warsaw each spring and Autumn, only resting on water rather than flying through the air. These birds will migrate in the spring into East Poland, Belarus and Russia for the summer breeding period – this is the most westerly point on mainland Europe that they are found all year. They live for about 18 years, are omnivorous, and considered as a type of rail: family Rallidae, order Gruiformes.

More beautiful landscape scenes from Poland and elsewhere coming up…

DJJ 13th February 2005

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