(2029) Fulica atra atra.
Fulica atra Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 152 (1758) (Sweden); Blanf. & Oates, Avifauna B. I., iv, p. 180.
Vernacular names. Dasari, Dasarni, Ari, Khurkul, Thekari, (Hin.); Barra Godar (Purnea); Boli-kodi (Tel.).
Description. Head and neck black, shading into slaty-black on the upper plumage, the whole having a steel-blue sheen; below, the black of the throat shades into the slaty-grey of the underpays, palest on the centre of the breast and abdomen, darkest on the vent and under tail-coverts ; primaries and outer secondaries grey, the first primary white on the outer web and the edge of the wing also white; outermost secondaries paler grey and mottled with white at the tips, this disappearing in very old birds.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red, red-brown or blood-red; bill and shield white, the former tinged with fleshy-pink, especially at the base: legs and feet dull greenish, tibia orange.
Measurements. Wing 185 to 220 mm.; tail 54 to 63 mm.; tarsus 56 to 64 mm.; culmen 33 to 38 mm. The measurements of the male and female differ very little. Witherby gives the measurements of twelve British birds as " Wing 200 to 225 ; bill from shield 33 to 38 mm."
Young birds are brown above and have the lower plumage paler and much more mottled with white.
Nestlings in down. Black, rather a greyish-black beneath ; the down with hair-like tips, white over the body, yellowish on the wings, orange on the neck and throat and crimson-scarlet on the fore-crown and round the eyes.
Nestlings in later stage drop all the hair-like tips except the crimson ones.
Distribution. Practically the whole of Europe and Asia. In India it is found and is resident in every part of the country where there are large lakes and swamps, but in those parts in which the water dries up after the rains cease they are only visitors. It has not yet been obtained in Ceylon.
Nidification. The Coot breeds in India during the rainy season, making a compact well-built nest of rushes low down among reeds just like that of the English bird. This is often massive and conspicuous, having an ample depression for the eggs to rest in. The eggs number five to ten, seven or eight being found most often. The ground-colour is a pale yellowish or brownish-grey, less often a rather deeper buff or cafe-au-lait; over this are scattered tiny spots and freckles of blackish-brown with rather larger underlying marks of neutral tint. One hundred Indian eggs average 53.1 x 35.6 mm.: maxima 57.0 x 37.1 and 50.3 x 37.8 mm.; minima 47.5 x 35.0 and 50.3 x 34.3 mm. In India the eggs take about 21 days to hatch and the birds probably pair for life.
Habits. The Coot frequents large open stretches of water surrounded by ample cover and are not often found on smaller lakes and ponds. They spend nearly all the daytime swimming in the open water but in the mornings and evenings often resort to the fields to feed, both on the young crops and on insects, snails, worms etc They are also known to steal other birds' eggs and have been accused of eating their chicks. For Rails they fly well once they are on the wing but are slow to start, and skitter along the top of the water for some yards before rising. The call is a loud, harsh " kraw-kraw " but they have many other conversational notes and the chicks have a shrill pipe to which the parents answer with a low chuckle. Coots are very gregarious and do not fight among themselves but are great bullies to other birds.