The American coot (Fulica americana), also known as a mud hen or pouldeau, is a bird of the family Rallidae. Though commonly mistaken for ducks, American coots are only distantly related to ducks, belonging to a separate order. Unlike the webbed feet of ducks, coots have broad, lobed scales on their lower legs and toes that fold back with each step in order to facilitate walking on dry land. Coots live near water, typically inhabiting wetlands and open water bodies in North America. Groups of coots are called covers or rafts. The oldest known coot lived to be 22 years old. The American coot measures 34–43 cm (13–17 in) in length with a wingspan of 58 to 71 cm (23 to 28 in). Adults have a short, thick, white bill and white frontal shield, which usually has a reddish-brown spot near the top of the bill between the eyes. Males and females look alike, but females are smaller. Body mass in females ranges from 427 to 628 g (0.941 to 1.385 lb) and in males from 576 to 848 g (1.270 to 1.870 lb). Juvenile birds have olive-brown crowns and a gray body. They become adult-colored around 4 months of age.
The American Coot is widespread in the Western Hemisphere including the West Indies (Raffaele and others 1998). American Coot was combined with Caribbean Coot as the two species are now considered to be one species; the major difference between the two species is the color on the frontal shield above the bill (Chesser and others 2018). It is an uncommon breeder and a common winter visitor from North America in Puerto Rico (Oberle 2018), and on Vieques it is considered an extremely rare fall and winter visitor (Gemmill 2015). The American Coot can be found in open freshwater areas with submergent vegetation (Raffaele and others 1998), such as lakes, ponds, and marshes (Oberle 2018). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 136 records within 52 hexagons or 11 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 52 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 31 percent (16) of the hexagons, probable in 23 percent (12), and possible in 40 percent (21), while the species was observed in 6 percent (3) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map). Atlas findings indicated probable breeding on Culebra. American Coot distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding. 99American Coot/Gallinazo Americano
Previously published reports indicate that the American Coot breeds from March to June, and the nest is placed on the ground among vegetation, or even on fl oating vegetation (Raffaele and others 1998). Atlas results indicate that breeding occurs in almost every month and probably extends throughout the year, but small sample sizes make it difficult to generalize about breeding seasonality. However, breeding activity is relatively higher during the first period of the year particularly in February (see chart). In addition, atlas results also show that breeding habitat for this species is restricted to subtropical moist and subtropical dry forest life zones in the coastal lowlands. Results show that this species breeds in the lowlands within the subtropical moist (63 percent of the hexagons) and subtropical dry forest life zones (37 percent of the hexagons), whereas no evidence of breeding was found in subtropical wet and subtropical rain forest life zones (see table and map).
The American Coot is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2016). However, locally, this species (known as Caribbean Coot) is listed as vulnerable (PRDNER 2015). In Puerto Rico, the American Coot has a protected habitat in land of 11 percent or 127 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (1171 km2).