Those Crazy Coots - American Coot, Eurasian Coot, and Hawaiian Coot

Updated: Apr 19

Learn some quick and easy tips to identify American, Eurasian, and Hawaiian Coots.

This post will lean heavily on photos to discuss an American Coot I found at Goldeneye Reservoir near Casper, Wyoming. Typically, the American Coot found throughout most of the United States is a Red-shielded Coot, e.g. "Image 4."


However, on occasion, a "White-shielded" American Coot makes an appearance (Images 1-3). Sometimes, this appearance can give the observer (me) a significant rise in blood pressure. Why? There are two other coots with white shields that would be considered a "MEGA-RARITIES" in Wyoming and most other states. So, when I observed this bird recently, I overreacted and watched it for 45 minutes while taking over 300 photos. It is not a rare species, but I thought my silly response to a non-rarity would provide a great learning opportunity for us all.



American Coot or Eurasian Coot?

An American Coot with a white shield
An American Coot

This American Coot has an all-white shield similar to the Eurasian and Hawaiin Coot. However, the size of the shield can offer a clue to the species of coot you are viewing.



American Coot or Hawaiian Coot?

An American Coot with a white shield
Still just an American Coot

Note the size of the shield on this American Coot. It is too small for a Eurasian or Hawaiin Coot.


American Coot or Eurasian Coot or Hawaiian Coot?

An American Coot with a white shield
And... Still just the same American Coot

Red-shielded American Coot or White-shielded American Coot?

American Coot Red-shielded
A Red-shielded American Coot. Photo by Sienna "Sharp-shinned" Hawk

The shield on this American Coot has the obvious red 'knob' at the top. If you see this knob along with the small shield size, you can be assured that you have an American Coot.



American Coot or Hawaiian Coot?

Note the size and bulbous nature of the Hawaiin Coot. Its shield is far too large and protruding to be an American Coot, and there is no constriction at the base of the shield, like the Eurasian Coot.


American Coot or Eurasian Coot?

Note the constriction at the base of the shield and the size of the shield to help identify this Eurasian Coot from the American Coot.


If you paid close attention to the photos above, the size of the white shield as well as the restriction of the shield at its base are both critical factors in coot identification!

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