Eurasian coot– Fulica atra


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Gruiformes
  • Family: Rallidae
  • Genre: Fulica
  • Species: Fulica atra

Identification characters

The Eurasian Coot is one of the largest species of the Rallidae family in Romania, with an average body length of 38 cm. It is plump in appearance, with a small round head and short tail. The sexes are similar. The plumage is dark greyish, almost black, and the beak and frontal plate are white. The iris is red. The legs are strong, greenish-yellow, with long, lobed toes without interdigital membranes. When swimming, it nods slightly. It dives with a small jump and quickly returns to the surface. The name of the genus Fulica comes from the Latin name for the liiseta. The specific epithet comes from the Latin word ater – black, dark, referring to the bird’s general colouring.

The young in the pupa are black with red and blue on the head and have a yellowish-brown collar. Juveniles have grey plumage.


The Eurasian Coot is a widespread species, nesting around freshwater lakes and ponds in Europe, Asia and Africa. The species has recently expanded its range to Australia and New Zealand. In Europe, the breeding population ranges from 945 000 to 1 550 000 pairs. The population trend is declining.

In areas with mild winters it is a largely sedentary species, but as the water freezes it migrates south. In Romania it is widespread throughout the country, except in mountainous areas. In Romania, the breeding population is estimated at 48 698-95 138 pairs. Between 78 773 and 134 561 individuals winter in our country.

Living environment and biology of the species

The Eurasian Coot can be found in areas with small, still waters, lakes, ponds, irrigation canals, reservoirs, marshes, mudflats. The wintering flocks to large lakes and rivers. Reaches sexual maturity at two years of age.

It is a diurnal species, but can sometimes feed at night by moonlight. The diet is omnivorous, feeding on aquatic plants, but also on invertebrates, bird eggs, amphibians, fish and small mammals. To obtain food it dives clumsily, but quickly returns to the surface of the water due to its high buoyancy. Unlike ducks, the coot brings its food to the surface before it is eaten, so there is a risk of its food being stolen.

The Eurasian Coot is a monogamous species. During the breeding season it becomes extremely territorial. During this critical period, it is aggressive not only towards individuals of its own species but also towards other species. After carrying out a not very complicated mating ritual, which consists of a mutual cleaning with the beak, the partners choose a suitable place to build a mound-shaped nest out of reed leaves in the emergent vegetation at a certain height above the water. In mid-March, the female lays 6 to 10 cream-coloured eggs with dark spots. Rarely even up to 15 eggs can be found in a nest, in which case several females have chosen to lay their eggs in that nest. The parents hatch in turns for 21-24 days. Both parents care for the chicks. At 55-60 days after hatching, the chicks become independent. In a breeding season, a pair may lay 2 or 3 eggs.

Threats and conservation measures

The populations of the Eurasian Coots appear to be threatened by habitat loss or alteration, pollution and poor water management, hunting. Handling of fishing gear may be the cause of mortality.

Conservation measures have been identified, such as observing restrictions in riparian areas, maintaining restoration of marsh vegetation to an ecologically optimal level, maintaining and conserving reed beds with permanent water as a characteristic habitat, prohibition of reed burning, water level management in accordance with the ecological needs of the species, waste and wastewater management in areas of important habitat for the species.

It is recommended to maintain uncultivated strips of at least 1.5 m between cultivated land and wetlands, where the use of chemicals is strictly forbidden, and to encourage the use of selective and low toxicity agrochemicals, avoid the use of treated seeds in the vicinity of wetlands, and as far as possible, encourage organic production.

Hunting and poaching should be controlled and the use of fishing nets should be limited in feeding areas.

Last but not least, studies on the inventory of breeding areas, both actual and potential, the identification of migration, feeding and aggregation areas important for the conservation of the species should be encouraged, as well as studies on various aspects of the biology of the species, including demographic parameters.


  • Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests – Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. p.188-189;
  • Lars Svensson, Hakan Delin, 1988, Photographic guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, Cranes and allies p. 96, Chancellor Press, London
  • Svensson (text and maps), 2017, Guide to bird identification. Europe and the Mediterranean area, translation and adaptation in Romanian: Romanian Ornithological Society, Emanuel Ștefan Baltag, Sebastian Bugariu, Alida Barbu, p.82;
  • Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Small Ornithological Atlas – Birds of the World, Albatros Publishing, Bucharest, p. 111;
  • Ornitodata | Eurasian Coot (
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