Feisty, Pugnacious And Aggressive – Why I Enjoy Photographing American Coots

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Aggressive American CootAggressive American Coot – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Yesterday I had fun photographing a few American Coots and their behaviors at a pond close to where I live in Salt Lake County.

There are quite a few reasons why I enjoy seeing, observing and photographing American Coots, to start with I love the challenge of photographing them because of the high contrast between their dark plumage, ivory white bills and cherry red eyes but that isn’t the only reason.

American Coot patrolling a pondAmerican Coot patrolling a pond – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

While observing American Coots I can see that they are feisty, pugnacious and aggressive in their behaviors and they don’t seem to take any guff from each other. Usually I can see when there might be an altercation between coots because of the behaviors they exhibit, for instance when I notice a coot exhibiting patrolling behavior I will often aim my lens at them because there could possibly be a chase or fight soon afterwards.

This coot was patrolling on a pond near home yesterday where there was another coot that this bird was trailing after, I’d hoped they might chase each other and I was ready for the action. The chase didn’t happen but it easily could have.

American Coot exhibiting patrolling behaviorAmerican Coot exhibiting patrolling behavior – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Sometimes American Coots can have such a comical look to their faces but there are times when they are acting territorial that the look on their faces appears to be deadly serious. The look on the face of this American Coot would make me back off from it. It almost looks like it is ready to mug someone.

You just never know when the action and interactions between these birds might occur which is part of the reason why I photograph them just about any chance I get.

American Coot swimming with head low to the waterAmerican Coot swimming with head low to the water – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500,-0.3 EV,  Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

When there is a coot chase or fight the action can be fast and furious and by watching their early aggressive behaviors I can get ready for that action if it occurs.  They can fight over food, territory or for a mate. Sometimes I believe they fight just because they can.

American Coot on patrolAmerican Coot on patrol – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500,-0.3 EV,  Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

When American Coots are feeding, resting or preening they don’t appear to be capable of the aggression that I often see in this species but as anyone who has spent practically any amount of time with these birds can tell you, they most certainly are.

These birds keep me on my toes when I am photographing them. What’s not to enjoy about that?

Life is good.

Mia

10 Comments

  1. Pepe Forte December 12, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    The water is really gorgeous. As with so many of your pics involving water…I can nearly feel the movement. Love the sharpness of your images and the coots red eyes are really striking. Not sure I’d want to mess around with that guy. Great narrative. Thanks Mia.

    BTW – Now I know what my kids mean when they call me a grumpy old coot.

  2. Utahbooklover December 12, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    I really like the second image, the ripples on the water are beautiful.
    The aggressive behavior must help them survive—interesting post.

  3. Laura Culley December 12, 2017 at 11:24 am

    OK, y’all know that birds are physically incapable of making facial expressions, don’t you? That’s despite that they do it all day every day! I’ve been told that SO often and it makes me laugh (almost) every time. How clueless can you be if you can’t see them. LOL! And, no. I do NOT want an answer to that question! I think it would shock me into catatonia!

    • Elephants Child December 12, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Physically incapable of showing emotion (which they don’t have anyway), unable to play, show affection and a litany of other stupidities. Hiss and spit. And I am pretty certain that some birds (particularly smaller ones) DO fight just because they can.,

      • Laura Culley December 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm

        Indeed EC! I just shake my head and realize just how oblivious some (most) people can be! And these were -ologists of one sort or another who told me that malarkey cow doo-doo!

  4. steve December 12, 2017 at 9:15 am

    When I lived in Stansbury Park I just loved watching these playful little creatures. Such a funny bird

  5. Marty K December 12, 2017 at 9:03 am

    I agree that they’re worth a “stop and watch” any time I come across coots! 🙂 Haven’t seen our local ones lately — perhaps there’s better snacking elsewhere.

  6. Patty Chadwickly one of my favorite birds December 12, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Looks snakey….like a goose….

  7. Patty Chadwickly one of my favorite birds December 12, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Looks snakey….like a goose….

  8. April Olson December 12, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Often your photos remind me of birds I have had close attachments to in the rehab setting. I find myself smiling recognizing behaviors and missing old feathered friends.

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