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Birdwatching in Africa - Red-knobbed Coot or Crested Coot, Fulica cristata

The Red-knobbed Coot or Crested Coot, (Fulica cristata), is a member of the rail and crake bird family, the Rallidae.

It is a resident breeder across much of Africa and in southernmost Spain on freshwater lakes and ponds. It builds a nest of dead reeds near the water's edge or more commonly afloat, laying about 8 eggs (or more in good conditions). However, its behaviour towards its own young is so aggressive that only a few are likely to survive to adulthood.

Range map from

Range map
Range map from - Ornithological Portal is one of those MUST visit pages if you're in to bird watching. You can find just about everything there

Description and identification
The red-knobbed coot is largely black except for the white frontal shield. It is 38–45 cm long, spans 75–85 cm across the wings and weighs 585–1,085 g. As a swimming species, it has partial webbing on its long strong toes. The juvenile is paler than the adult, has a whitish breast, and lacks the facial shield; the adult's black plumage develops when about 3–4 months old, but the white shield is only fully developed at about one year old, some time later.

A good view is necessary to separate this species from the Eurasian coot, with which its range overlaps. There are two tiny red knobs at the top of the facial shield, which are not visible at any great distance and are only present in the breeding season; the black feathering between the shield and the bill is rounded, whereas in Eurasian it comes to a point; and the bill has a bluish grey tinge. In flight, the red-knobbed coot lacks the white trailing edge to the secondaries of the Eurasian coot.

Length: 38 - 45 cm
Wingspan: 75 - 85 cm
Weight: 585 – 1,085 g
Distinctive Feature

Similar Species

• Similar to the Eurasian Coot (F. atra) which lacks the red knobs. The knobs may not always be obvious in the field. Note that the black feathering between the shield and the bill is more rounded in Red-knobbed Coot. In Eurasian Coot the bill feathering comes to an acute angled point at the side of the bill.

From opus at the forum for wild birds and birding.
Female / Male

From opus at the forum for wild birds and birding.

Listen to the Red-knobbed Coot

Remarks from the Recordist

Contact calls given by 2 adults and one juvenile feeding only about 5 m from the recorder, at 0:54 a Eurasian Coot starts calling in the background

The habits of the red-knobbed coot are practically identical to those of the Eurasian coot. It is much less secretive than most of the rail family. Where it is undisturbed it is likely to bully any intruder, even large birds such as Egyptian geese, if they do not defy its challenges.

It can be seen swimming on open water or walking across waterside grasslands. It is an aggressive species, and strongly territorial during the breeding season.

The red-knobbed coot is reluctant to fly and when taking off runs across the water surface with much splashing. It does the same, but without actually flying, when travelling a short distance at speed (to escape a rival, for example, or to dispute possession of a choice morsel). It bobs its head as it swims, and makes short dives from a little jump.

Red-knobbed Coot or Crested Coot, Fulica cristata
A clutch from Marocco
By Roger Culos - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The red-knobbed coot is an omnivore, and will take a variety of small live prey including the eggs of other water birds. Its main food in most waters however comprises various waterweeds such as species of Potamogeton for which it commonly dives.

This is a noisy bird during mating, but its vocalisations are quite different from the Eurasian coot. It gives a fast kerrre like the little crake, a harsh ka-haa and a grunting hoot "oot oot" that suggests that the name "coot" might be onomatopoeia, but inspection of the etymology of "coot" fairly decisively negates any such suggestion.

Conservation status
Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sighted: (Date of first photo that I could use) 11 November 2019
Location: Chelekleka Lake, Bishoftu, Ethiopia

Red-knobbed Coot or Crested Coot, Fulica cristata
Red-knobbed Coot or Crested Coot - 11 November 2019 - Chelekleka Lake, Bishoftu, Ethiopia

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