American Coot fleeing from an attackAmerican Coot fleeing from an attack from another coot – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

“Crazy Old Coot” is a term that many of us know and associate with a foolish person, especially an old man. I’ve seen a lot of coots in my life, both the feathered and non-feathered kinds. I’m not sure though why coots were associated with “foolish people” or “old men”.

Curious American CootCurious American Coot – Nikon D200, f9, 1/320, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 314mm, natural light

A test for being an old Coot might go something like this, you might be an old Coot if:

  • You sit on a rocking chair and can’t get it going.
  • Your knees buckle but your belt won’t.
  • Your back goes out more than you do.
  • Everything hurts, and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.
  • Your little black book contains only names ending in “M.D.”
  • You need glasses to find your glasses.

An American Coot with more than it can chewAn American Coot with more than it can chew – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Now some old Coots do bite off more than they can chew but only an American Coot; with actual feathers and green clownish feet, are birds.

American Coot wing flapAmerican Coot wing flap – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

There is also a phrase “bald as a coot” and I truly don’t know where that comes from because in all the time I have been photographing birds I have never once seen a bald coot.

American Coot in a defensive postureAmerican Coot in a defensive posture – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 321mm, natural light

Frankly I love Coots. I love how they posture their plump bodies, squawk, puff up and get an attitude.

And yes, I am talking about the feathered kind.



  1. Jane Chesebrough May 20, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    I was watching these birds today. Love the one running. Excellent shots.

    • Mia McPherson May 21, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Jane, I saw your post of the coot with its tail showing on Facebook today, I loved it!

  2. humming bird lover May 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm


    Like you said that coot bite off more than he can chew! We old folks do it all the time it seems! Ha Ha
    Also the younger kids, too. Have a great day everyone!

    • Mia McPherson May 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Thank you Mom! I have bit off more than I could chew at times too!

  3. Stu May 20, 2014 at 10:23 am

    I just joined the coots club recently ;), so it was handy to have a checklist, which you provided. Great photos and story

    • Mia McPherson May 21, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      Did you have to use glasses to find your glasses to read this post Stu?? 🙂

  4. Elephant's Child May 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I would be very, very happy if I could age like these coots.

  5. Mary McAvoy May 19, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Wonderful! 😉
    Thanks, Mia!

  6. Wally May 19, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Mia, I am shocked – shocked I tell you, to discover that I am apparently, by definition, an American Coot!

    Splendid series of photographs of my peers.

    • Mia McPherson May 21, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Wally… I am probably an old coot too but I don’t have huge green feet!

  7. Sarah Mayhew May 19, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Wow, that is quite a fish! I only ever seen them eating water weeds. Didn’t even realize they ate fish, never mind try to deal with something that huge!! Great shots!

    • Mia McPherson May 21, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      Sarah, our harsh winters here seem to force coots to take food they normally would not eat, I am sure this fish died of natural causes or was killed by a predator. Coots might beat each other to death at times but I don’t think they could do that to a carp!

  8. Utahbooklover May 19, 2014 at 10:19 am

    I also love coots and this series. Ryan Ankeny’s blog a few years ago gave this explanation: “You old coot!” is an expression used to describe a cranky, surly, or pesky old person. Coots got implicated in this negative expression because they are just so danged common and numerous. Duck hunters consider them pests and a distraction because of this commonness. The sheer numbers of coots make it difficult locate and shoot more attractive and sought after ducks. Thus an “old coot” is also used to describe someone who is unwanted.

    • Mia McPherson May 21, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Well, I was thinking I was an old coot but maybe I am not because some people want me in their lives! Thanks for the explanation Utahbooklover!

  9. Patty Chadwick May 19, 2014 at 7:52 am

    I Love this series, but especially the first…with feet like that, of course they can walk on water! This picture proves it….

  10. judy watson May 19, 2014 at 6:09 am

    Love your coot photos!

  11. Julie Brown May 19, 2014 at 5:07 am

    Those feet are amazing structures. Good shot getting that running pose!

  12. Bob Bushell May 19, 2014 at 4:34 am

    The American Coots are doing there thing, brilliant photos.

Comments are closed.