American Coots on Thin Ice

/, Birds, Salt Lake County, Utah/American Coots on Thin Ice

American Coot moving slowly on iceAmerican Coot moving slowly on ice – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/750, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The temps are dropping here in the Salt Lake Valley, two days ago it was below freezing when we went out shooting. Winter brings challenges and birds we don’t see during the summer so I am excited about that.

The American Coots (Fulica americana) in Utah will be here until the water freezes solid, if there is any open water they hang around. So when there is ice on part of a pond it can be fun watching the coots slip-sliding around.

Slippery iceSlippery ice – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/750, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

American Coots are common in North America and even though that is true I like to photograph them because they are a challenge to expose correctly because of their dark feathers and that ivory-white bill. Usually in winter I can get closer to them. They will walk on the ice to avoid a fight with another coot which is what the one above was doing when I took the image.

Sinking American CootSinking American Coot – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The coot above avoided a fight and was standing on ice that barely support its weight which is why there is a circle of icy water around its feet. Coots might not be very colorful or as powerful as a raptor but they are great fun to photograph. American Coots on thin ice provide great opportunities to photograph them slip sliding around and seeing unique behaviors.

I’m looking forward to winter and the great bird photography opportunities it will bring.



  1. Dave Sparks October 20, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Why did I not think of this — photographing the Coot walking on ice to get a great view of the lobed toes? Oh! we don’t have ice in Pensacola … don’t guess that will work for me.
    Great shots! Wonderful exposure setting.

  2. Tammy Karr October 11, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Love these photos Mia! While I do get to see lots of Coots, I don’t ever get to see them on ice! It reminds me of a uncoordinated kid on ice skates:)

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 10:04 am

      Tammy, your description of what Coots on ice remind you of made me laugh, I could see that in my mind. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Humming Bird Lover October 11, 2012 at 8:11 am


    From a OLD Coot! As a young wife enjoyed watching the Coot’s also, while fishing. Fishing is one of my life’s most loved pleasure’s! I have always loved the outdoors and all criters.That I have seen that way.
    Mia you have a inherited love of nature from your great Grandfather,thru granddad and to me.
    Your picture are beyond words of beauty. Keep it up! Love ya

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 10:02 am

      Thank you Mom. You aren’t an old Coot though.

  4. M. Firpi October 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I like both #1 and #2 and I love their feet!

  5. Linda Rockwell October 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Wonderful photos Mia! I love ccot feet more than just about anything, so your photos made me smile. 🙂

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 9:54 am

      Linda, I am glad my coot images made you smile! Thank you.

  6. Carol Mattingly October 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    I have to say it, these guys are so odd looking. God is not always kind. Carol

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 9:54 am

      Carol, Coot are a little odd looking but great fun to observe and photograph. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Rohrerbot October 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Mia, I’m so glad we have crossed paths. Yesterday I was reading your posts…..your photos are increndible…..seriously excellent images. Look forward to following your work:)

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 9:53 am

      I am very glad we crossed paths and that you enjoy following my blog Roherbot! I think I have fantastic subjects.

  8. Scott (@NESASK) October 10, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I love to see Coots out of the water with those wacky looking greenish legs and those segmented toes. Nice shots!

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Thanks Scott, I enjoy seeing them out of the water too.

  9. Prairie Birder October 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I love how the coot looks sort of tentative while walking on the ice, wonderful series, Mia!

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Prairie Birder, they do look like they are very aware of how slippery the ice it. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Beverly Everson October 10, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Great post! Coots are very interesting birds. 🙂

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 9:47 am

      I agree Beverly, they are very interesting birds. Thanks for your comment.

  11. Bob Bushell October 10, 2012 at 5:40 am

    He/she has got big feet just ours has, nice photos.

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Thanks Bob, both our coot and yours are big-footed!

  12. threecollie October 10, 2012 at 4:42 am

    I love all your photos, but these tickled me especially! What nifty birds!

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Thank you ThreeCollie

  13. Dan Huber October 10, 2012 at 4:17 am

    Great series Mia – love the look of their feet too.

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Thank you Dan, those feet are amazingly big.

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