Red-knobbed Coot, Fulica cristata

The Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata), also known as the Crested Coot, is a species of bird in the rail and crake family Rallidae. It is resident across much of Africa and in southernmost Spain during the breeding season. Its habitat is freshwater lakes, ponds and waterside grasslands. It is aggressive and strongly territorial during the breeding season.

The Red-knobbed Coot is mostly black except for the white facial shield. It has partial webbing on its long strong toes. The juvenile is paler than the adult, has a whitish breast, and lacks the facial shield. The white facial shield doesn’t fully develop until the bird is about one year old. The adult also has two tiny red knobs at the top of the facial shield, which are not visible from afar. It can be difficult to distinguish from the Eurasian Coot where their range overlaps. This is a noisy bird. It gives a fast kerrre like the Little Crake, and a harsh ka-haa.

The Red-knobbed Coot is an omnivore, and will take a variety of small live prey including the eggs of other water birds. It builds a nest of dead reeds near the water’s edge or afloat, laying up to 8 eggs. It is reluctant to fly and when taking off runs across the water surface with much splashing. It does the same, but without actually flying, when traveling a short distance at speed. It bobs its head as it swims, and makes short dives from a little jump.

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