Last time I paddled the Russian River at Jenner was on Halloween.
I was able to get some photos of a group of American Coots who swam by as I was looking for a coyote in the pasture near the Highway One bridge. In the photo you can clearly see that coots eat plant material that they gather from beneath as they swim in shallow water.
By reading online, I learned that American Coots are omnivorous. They are happy to eat small animals as well as plants when they can. I have not seen that yet.
I also learned a little bit about their breeding habits.
According to Wikipedia, American Coots are sexually monogamous throughout their lives.
Coots incubate their clutches of eggs in floating nests. Female coots do the building of nests. Wikipedia does not reveal what the males are doing while the females are doing construction work. I have yet to see the nest of a coot, but now I know to look for them next spring during breeding season.
Sexual intercourse lasts about 2 seconds.
The females will lay about 9 eggs, not all of them in her own nest. A good percentage of her eggs, 13% according to Wiki, will be deposited in a nest of another female. And, while she’s away, another female coot may return the “favor” of laying an egg in her nest. This behavior is called “brood parasitism” by people who know more about it than I do. (So much for coot monogamy!)
Coots are preyed upon by other birds, among them bald eagles, owls, crows, and gulls. Mammals enjoy eating coots as well—including raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bobcats. These predators can be found in the Russian River estuary. So we can thank our coots for attracting a lot of the wildlife we see in the RRE.