I came across this American Coot in Veterans Park, Mentor, OH. Coots are medium-sized birds related to rails rather than to ducks. They build floating nests anchored to stationary reeds and have lobed toes rather than webbed feet. The lobes provide propulsion in water and traction on land.
“Old coot” generally refers to an older person, not too bright but harmless. Coots are far from harmless. Though American Coots lay clutches of 8-12 eggs, they selectively feed only the most vociferous of their hatchlings. European Coots shake some of their brood to death.
I was as surprised as the startled Mallard drake when the Coot became belligerent, giving an abrupt Cluck! to claim the space the duck occupied.
It’s a wise duck that knows better than to argue with a crabby young Coot.
The word “cooting” refers to the hunting of Coots, but when originally coined in the 17th Century, referred to copulating turtles.
Coming up: Copulating Snapping Turtles (I’m not kidding. I’m becoming a wildlife paparazza.)