ARTISTS AND BIRDS

"Salute the Coot"

American Coot

        When I was about eight, one of my neighbors said he could tell fortunes. The kids on Temple Street all lined up outside his door and made him go to work and start telling. He said that I would be a model and wear beautiful clothes. Little did he know that I really wanted to be "Jane", like in Tarzan and Jane. But I believed him. However, to this day Iíve got no cash offers to model.

        The American Coot has also had no cash offers for modeling. The Coot may have beautiful black feathers and a striking light beak, but remains spurned by most everyone. The American Coot is unloved by golfers, unloved by the golfing maintenance crews, and only loved a little by birders. Golf greens are great food for Coots. Anyone golfing, after a thousand Coots have dined on greens, has an extensive vocabulary for Coots. American Coots are comical: They look a lot like an ungainly chicken with extremely large feet, and they waddle when they walk. But if you want to truly appreciate Coots.... you need to see the babies.

        Baby Coots are the clowns of the bird world. They have orange spikes on the head, and look like a drunken "rocker" after a bad weekend. The first time we saw baby Coots, we knew why people put up with the adults. How could the parents come up with such cute, colorful offspring? We jumped a bunch Coots
of Coot babies next to the shore of a lake near Delta, Utah. When they saw us, their immediate response was to head for protection in deeper water among the reeds. With new awkward bodies, long legs, and spiky hair they ran across the wet surface, throwing up a plume of water. What a hoot.... a baby Coot!

        Itís Spring. Babies will be coming your way. I hope you have an opportunity to see some American Coots. Judy Warren has drawn a mother and her babies so you will know what to look for. Thank you Judy. And for more information about Birds and how to enjoy our great outdoors, call Marilyn Davis, 673-0996.


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