Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Australian Coots in Western Springs, Auckland.

I found this threesome in a quiet spot away from the other inhabitants like ducks, geese and swans. I watched with interest as the Australian Coot parents guide and feed their baby. They can teach us humans a lesson or two. One parent dived into the water to hunt for food. The other stayed to keep an eye on the baby. When the food is found, he/she puts the food directly into the chicks mouth.

We gave in out temptation to help the parents and threw them some bread. In the same way, the parents fed the chick bread. The baby had an orangy head.

The nest on rocks in the lake, and often have to ward off thieves ever ready to steal the eggs.

The Australian sub species was a rare vagrant in New Zealand until the 1950s when they moved across the Tasman and began to breed here. It is now widespread and numerous on certain lakes, especially around Rotorua in sheltered bays fringed with raupo ( catstail or bulrush). Numbers seem to be increasing.

In New Zealand, eggs are laid from August to February and often two broods are raised. The nest is a large mass of water weeds, piled together among rushes or raupo in the water or on the margin, and not infrequently contains as many as ten eggs. The young, when first hatched, are beautiful little creatures, clothed in jet-black down, with their heads of a bright orange-scarlet, varied with purplish-blue. This brilliant coloring is soon lost, and they begin to assume the almost uniform sooty-black plumage which is worn for the rest of their life; but a characteristic of the adult is a bare patch or callosity on the forehead, which being nearly white gives rise to the epithet bald often prefixed to the birds name. Diet is mainly vegetarian, which they obtain mainly by diving.

Coots may form large flocks out of the breeding season and are not unlike dabchicks in the way they skitter across the water.

The word coot, in some parts of England pronounced cute, or scute, is of uncertain origin but may have something to do with the sound of its piercing loud call.

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