Katie’s Sightings

By Katie O’Hara Kelly

Cootlings, Goslings, and Ducklings!

American Coot (cootling) – Fulica americana

I met some friends over in Sierra Valley this past week, and we spotted this juvenile American Coot near the Steel Bridge! It was SO wildly colored and feathered! Its wispy, long, orange and yellow, downy feathers looked like a dyed feather boa! And its bright pink bald head and orange bill added to its overall “flamboyance”! What a cute, colorful surprise to find in the wetlands!

American Coot (cootling – adult) – Fulica americana

An adult Coot was diving repeatedly and surfacing with plants to feed the juvenile Coot or “cootling”! Both male and female parents feed the young coots. Since they are sexually monomorphic, I couldn’t tell if this was a male or female Coot. American Coots are not ducks. They are rails, and belong in the Rallidae family.

American Coots make floating nests out of tules and other dry vegetation, that are anchored to standing aquatic vegetation (cattails, tules etc.) in wetlands. The female lays 8-12 eggs, which both parents incubate for up to 23 days. The newly hatched Coots are precocial, and can swim and dive. They can also self-feed, but mainly rely on their parents to feed them for their first 30 days. They feed mainly on aquatic vegetation and algae, aquatic invertebrates and vertebrates, and grains. It will take them two months before they can fly, and are independent. Both parents care for the cootlings!

Canada Geese – 5/29/22 (2 goslings – adult) – Branta canadensis

Every year at least two mated couples of Canada Geese raise their young in our neighborhood. This year I’ve seen one adult with two goslings, three adults with two goslings, and two adults with no goslings! I’m sure there are three separate stories to tell why these three families are different, but I can only guess. The one adult with two goslings probably lost its mate (they mate for life) to a predator. The three adults with two goslings, must be a mated pair and perhaps a related adult. The mated pair without goslings, may have lost their goslings to a predator. Interestingly, I never saw any of the goslings when they were small, yellow and fuzzy this year. The first ones I saw are pictured above, and were probably a month or two old. Maybe it was snowing when the goslings were young? Anyway, it’s been a different year for the Canada Geese!

Wood Duck (female – 2 ducklings) – Aix sponsa

I was delighted to see a female Wood Duck at one of the ponds at Joubert’s Diggins! She had three ducklings, but one ducked for the above photo. The ducklings are born precocial. They chiefly eat invertebrates for their first 2-3 weeks, then gradually change to plant foods as they grow older.

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