The American Coot is a plump, chickenlike bird with a rounded head and a sloping bill. Their tiny tail, short wings, and large feet are visible on the rare occasions they take flight. They measure 39.4 to 42.9 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of 58.4 to 63.5 centimeters. Coots are dark-gray to black birds with a bright-white bill and forehead. The legs are yellow-green. At close range you may see a small patch of red on the forehead. You’ll find coots eating aquatic plants on almost any body of water. When swimming they look like small ducks (and often dive), but on land they look more chickenlike, walking rather than waddling. An awkward and often clumsy flier, the American Coot requires long running takeoffs to get airborne. Look for American Coots at ponds in city parks, in marshes, reservoirs, along the edges of lakes, and in roadside ditches, sewage treatment ponds, and saltwater inlets or saltmarshes. This species is of low conservation concern.
Although it swims like a duck, the American Coot does not have webbed feet like a duck. Instead, each one of the coot’s long toes has broad lobes of skin that help it kick through the water. The broad lobes fold back each time the bird lifts its foot, so it doesn’t impede walking on dry land, though it supports the bird’s weight on mucky ground.
American Coots in the winter can be found in rafts of mixed waterfowl and in groups numbering up to several thousand individuals.
Source: American Coot Overview and Identification Information, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology