Watering Hole

Lake Water HoleAn open patch of water in Prospect Park’s Lake attracts everybody. The Ring-billed gulls — of which there were hundreds on the ice — had just taken off, leaving the Mute swans in charge. Anas clypeataThe crowd meant more fowl were on-shore and close to the path, grooming and resting. This allowed me to get up-close and personal with a couple of Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata).Anas clypeataI trust an explanation of their common name is unnecessary? That bill is actually wider at the tip than at the base; they use these to filter food from the water as they circle around and around in little co-specific fleets.

The American Coots (Fulica americana) were also close. This species can glean from the land.Fulica americanaJust because they float in the water does not mean they are ducks. Coots are more closely related to the rails and cranes than they are to the ducks. Fulica americanaAmong many other differences with the ducks, note the feet here, which are lobbed on each toe as opposed to the duck’s complete web. And in an electric blue color, too.detailsSchnoz ‘n’ toes.

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11 Responses to “Watering Hole”


  1. 1 alphonsegaston February 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Great duck photosl And coots–I wonder in passing why we call old men “old coots.” I could look it up, but that would be work. My feeders are full these days, IN SPITE OF all my cats, who catch maybe 2 birds a month in summer, tops. Everything is brought in to us, of course, although that is not desirable. We have many more birds here than we did 40 years ago, but many fewer species. We feed sunflower and suet year round, to get the woodpecker babies introduced to the feeding yard.

    • 2 mthew February 3, 2013 at 8:21 pm

      My Shorter OED has coot as “a silly person, a man, a chap” from the mid-18th century on, but doesn’t tell us why. But does quote Raymond Chandler: “The widow of an old coot with whiskers.”

  2. 3 Eileen Rudden February 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Love these pix, Matthew

  3. 5 Gillian February 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Wow! The male shoveler is a handsome beast, isn’t he? I have never been really close to one before.

    • 6 mthew February 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm

      This was as close as I’ve gotten to this species, who are almost always in the water. The ducks in general are pretty amazing looking animals. The Pintails and Wood Ducks, the Teals and Harlequins, among others, all deserve as close a viewing as possible.

  4. 7 Paul Lamb February 3, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I wish some mute swans would find their way to my lake in the Ozarks!

  5. 9 Elizabeth February 4, 2013 at 1:00 am

    I’ve always liked those coot feet with their lobes. Any idea what advantage they give the birds over the more common webbed feet?


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