Coot are feeding hundreds of duck!

05 January 2017
Coot are feeding hundreds of duck!
coot and gadwall

Wildlife watching is not just about finding and recording the unusual, it's also about observing changes and the interactions between the plants and animals around us.

In the winter the numbers of wigeon, gadwall and coot increase as birds escape the freezing conditions of the continent and seek the warmth of the Sussex coastal wetlands. At Rye Harbour the new saline wetlands have created ideal conditions for these three waterfowl - clear salty water with lush growth of spiral tasselweed and sea lettuce.

sleeping wigeon and a coot

Gadwall and wigeon are dabbling duck that eat aquatic weed, but they cannot reach it in deep water. This is where coot come to their rescue, diving down, grabbing a beak full of weed and then popping up to the surface, like a cork, to eat it. The ducks move in and grab the bits of weed near the coot. Watching this behaviour makes me wonder what the coot might get out of this arrangement, they don't seem to mind and there is rarely a fight - considering how argumentative and aggressive coot can be with their own kind. Perhaps there is a reduced chance of predation by marsh harrier or peregrine?

coot and wigeon dining together

the flower of spiral tasselweed is on a spring, possibly to cope with rapid changes in water level.