Killer Coots

Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Tuesday 1st June 1999

coot attacking chick A FAMILY OF COOTS swims down the canal. One of the parents feeds a youngster. The other parent viciously stabs at another with it's beak, forcing the chick under water. The distressed chick surfaces a couple of yards away and the adult goes for it again, attempting to drown it. This happens three of four times during the few minutes that we are walking by.

coot feeding young The rest of the family neither join in the attack nor attempt to defend the victim. It's horrible to imagine the dilemma of the young bird with its urge to be part of the family even at the risk of its own life.

It is very difficult to see the advantage of such behaviour for the species. The young coot was almost certainly the offspring of the pair, not a trespasser on their territory. I've heard of this behaviour but I don't think there is a full explanation for it.

Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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