The coot population has exploded in the past few weeks. The one or small handful of year-round residents is hosting something like a family reunion, with a few dozen conspecifics dabbling, diving, and grazing along the east shore of the park. Early walkers may see a flock of them foraging in the grass like chickens and then fluttering into the water as the human comes nearer. As I watched them this cold morning, a bunch of them sat on the water in a tight huddle, as if to keep warm, and busily preened. Then I saw something I had not seen coots do before: one coot preening another. In the video, the bird on the left in the circle is preening the bird on the right, while that bird is also preening itself. That behavior lasted only a few seconds and was not repeated. Was this a display of affection and care for a mate, as we saw recently with crows? I’m not convinced. Coots, in my observation, are not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier; I’ve seen them repeatedly dive, bring up edible greenery, and let the wigeons steal it from them. The bird on the left may have thought it was preening itself. Hey, one noseful of feathers is much like another.
- Not Least