Updated March, 2013
Click on the following filenames to hear coot calls. This works best with Internet Explorer:
crow.wav - Beaky Coot crows at the border of his territory
squawk.wav - Male coot recognition call
croak.wav - Female coot recognition call.
oneclick.wav - Male coot short recognition call, believed to mean "come here".
yelp2.wav - Submissive call from retreating male coot chased away by a territorial male.
cackle.wav - Alarmed call from a retreating female coot chased away from food by a male.
helicopter.wav - Beaky Coot responds to a noisy helicopter flying overhead. I had been trying to record the male coot's mournful "cow-wah" call as used to call a lost mate. It is somewhat similar to this...
marvin.wav - Unusual call given by Starvin' Marvin, the socially maladjusted and kleptoparisitic coot.
The first movie show typical female foot slapping behavior (standing arch) while she shows her undertail coverts.
This next display is commonly used by a female against her mate. She kicks water in his face as he is "scolding" her and chasing her around.
This movie is the same female responding to an enemy male who tries to pacify her by bowing. She pecks him hard in the head, and escapes with the female "cackle" call.
The "kicking water" display is used by a female on her mate. The peck and cackle tactic is used on an enemy male. Other females may repeat the cackling call, and her mate may also respond.
The following link is a reference that describes coot calls and displays.
The Displays and Calls of the American Coot
The next movie is Beaky the Coot at his morning bath. Music is "Lets Twist Again" courtesy of Charlie Porter and his Decap Band Organ.
Coots don't like steps, they prefer a ramp. You can usually coax them up steps, but it is very difficult to make them go down. They just prefer to jump in the water. Monday Coot walks down steps as well as up.
Beaky retrieves his food dish from where I have hidden it:http://www.beakycoot.com/fooddish.avi
Then Beaky and Missy are billing and nibbling as mates
The following movies show typical coot interaction with peoplehttp://www.beakycoot.com/beakymissy.avi
Coots struggle to survive over the winter until they return home in the springhttp://www.beakycoot.com/starvingcoots.avi
Marvin quickly runs forward to eat a cracker, but can't decide what to do:http://www.beakycoot.com/stupidmarvin.avi
Marvin makes his stupid yapping, and tries to bite the other coots, (turn up the sound):http://www.beakycoot.com/marvin8.avi
The large number and variety of coot calls and displays makes an interesting subject for study. Traditional methods of transcribing bird calls into written text seems less than useless and makes it a difficult subject to research. I believe that these calls are simply emotional outbursts, and coots are more emotionally expressive than most animals. They don't really form a primitive language since they are not used to describe a sequence of events or things. Regardless of that, they obviously convey an expression of specific individual thoughts that are clearly understood.
The usage of the two male coot recognition calls is not clear, but the difference is obvious. The long squawk is used to hail other coots, but also used to call to humans when under stress. I noticed that the short call was used by a male coot leading a flock when he had changed direction. Beaky repeatedly used the short call while working on his nest whenever he would see me, but he would not come to me. He wanted me to go to him. So, I tend to believe that the meaning of the short call is "come here" or "I want you".
The unusual "yip-yip" call by Starvin' Marvin (the stupidly aggressive coot) is unique and expresses his excitement at seeing me feeding the coots. During his last few days before he was one of the last coots to go on migration, he moved away from his territory by the marina gate. He would then stay inside the yacht basin where he acted as a normal coot would inside another territorial coot's home. He was meek and timid, and begged food for a few days and then was gone.