(2029) Fulica atra atra Linn.
Fulica atra atra, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed, vol. vi, p. 34.
The Coot is found and is resident over practically the whole of Europe and Asia except in tae Aretic. In India it is found practically all over the plains and has been shot in Ceylon by Mr. Hirst early in 1925. It is probably resident wherever found, except in certain places such as Sind, parts of Rajputana and other very dry areas, while they also breed plentifully in Kashmir and other Himalayan areas up to some 8,000 feet.
To those who know the breeding of the English Coot there is no need to add anything about this bird. It builds the same cup¬shaped nest of sedges and rush-leaves in among reeds, preferably in reed-beds of some extent in large lakes, but often in narrow fringes round their edge. They do not, however, confine themselves to the larger lakes and swamps but often breed in quite small tanks.
Betham found them breeding round Poona in considerable numbers and, in response to a query by him as to its breeding elsewhere, Inglis mentioned its breeding at Belahi factory in the Mazufferpore district in quite a small tank, and Howard Campbell noted : “I am under the impression it breeds freely in most parts of the Madras Presidency ; I found nests in several places in the Cuddapah Districts. In 1892 I found a neat in a small tank near the town of Cuddapah. On the 30th Oct. in the same year I found several nests in a small reedy tank at Oochaveli containing fresh egga. They evidently have two broods, for I have seen young birds following their parents on a tank in April” (Journ. Bomb, Nat, Hist. Soc. vol. xiv, p. 393, 1902).
Long before this Burgess had recorded (vide Hume) that he had found Coots breeding in the Singwa Tank, North of Ahmednuggur, while Butler took a clutch of seven eggs in a tank near Belgaum on the 28th July.
Normally the nest is a mass of weeds and rushes with a well- made cavity lined with dry rush-blades, placed in among the reeds low down, often resting on some turned-down reeds in a tuft rather thicker than those surrounding it. These nests may average some 8 inches or so in diameter. Often, however, it is a much more bulky affair and I have seen many nests in Cachar similar to those described by Hume:—“The nests are sometimes large conical masses of reed, rush and weed, very strongly built in the midst of rice or rushes in water 6 to 18 inches deep, but based upon the ground and rising several inches above the water-level. One that I measured was 3 feet in diameter at the base, 2 feet high and about 11 inches in diameter at the top, where there was a depression or shallow cup about 8 inches across and 3 inches in depth ; others built in shallower water are proportionately less massive and less broad at the base. Sometimes they are more or less floating, having been built on a platform of lotus-leaves and down-bent over-crossing reeds and rushes.”
In Kashmir Theobald says that he found them breeding in May but, even here, I think more lay in June on into July and even August while, over most of the plains, they breed after the rains break in June and from then onwards to the end of September.
In Cachar, Sylhet and Lakhimpur the birds were common, though they nowhere bred in the great numbers the Moorhen did. Here they never laid until the rains were well advanced and the swamps had begun to fill up, which meant that, though an odd nest or so might be taken with egga in the first week in July, the great majority laid in August. In Madras (vide supra) Howard Campbell found that they sometimes bad two broods in the year, breeding very early—presumably March and April—and again in July and onwards. Cardew also found a nest with five eggs on the 21st March when out Snipe-shooting.
In England Witherby saya that these birds have two or three broods but, in India, two must be the maximum and even that, I believe, is exceptional.
The number of eggs laid is most often five to eight, but clutches of nine and ten are not rare and I have heard of well authenticated clutches up to fourteen.
In shape I should call the eggs typically rather long ovals, dis¬tinctly compressed towards the small end and sometimes rather pointed. The texture is fairly close, hard and fine, but the surface glossless.
In colour they vary extraordinarily little. The ground, I think, might perhaps be best described as drab, or as yellowish or brownish- grey. Buff they are not, though this colour is so often used in describing them. The marking consists of tiny freckles and very small blotches of blackish-brown scattered thinly over the whole surface. In a few eggs the markings are a trifle larger and bolder, but I have never seen a really well-marked egg.
One hundred Indian egga average 53.1 x 35.6 mm. : maxima 57.0 x 37.1 and 50.3 x 37.3 mm. ; minima 47.5 x 35.0 and 50.3 x 34.3 mm.
The male assists the female both in building the nest and in incuba¬tion, which takes twenty to twenty-one days. Coots seem to agree well among themselves and have no breeding territory ; two nests may be found within a few yards of one another and sometimes several in the same reed-bed, but they are very intolerant of other birds and frequently drive away those who would otherwise nest among them.
2029. Fulica atra atra
(2029) Fulica atra atra Linn.