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American Coot

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The American Coot

If you take your sweetheart for a romantic stroll through the Wetlands Park in February, you may notice chubby-looking waterbirds with black plumage bobbing playfully together in the water. The American Coot is a medium-sized waterbird related to the moorhen, and is commonly found throughout North America.

American Coots are year-round residents of the Las Vegas Wash, and during winter months they gather together for protection and socialization in large groups called covers or rafts. Coots are omnivores, and eat plant material as well as fish and other aquatic animals.

American Coot
Photographer: Elizabeth Bickmore

They are known for an easygoing temperament throughout most of the year, but when breeding season approaches, both males and females squabble with neighbors for food territories and well-concealed nesting spots in tall bulrush. Females are even known to lay eggs in their neighbor’s nests, and despite what one might think this behavior is actually more common in those who have nests of their own rather than those who didn’t succeed in securing one. Their black-bodied chicks are quite a sight with bright-red heads and beaks, and orange plumes around their necks.

When thinking about ways to keep our birds and other wildlife off endangered lists, it is important to remember the value of preventing stormwater pollution. American Coots in the Wash spend most of their time in the water, which is comprised of treated effluent and urban runoff. According to the Conservation District of Southern Nevada, our urban runoff contains pet waste, pesticides, oil and grease, plastic bags, cigarette butts and other pollutants.

Even on the driest day in Southern Nevada, we create 14 million gallons of polluted flows from activities such as car washing and lawn watering. Lvstormwater.com contains all the information you need to know about how you can help, including the downloadable “Prevent Stormwater Pollution” brochure. You may have noticed colorful “Kip the Fish" plaques placed on sidewalks above drains in your neighborhood – these serve to remind Las Vegas area residents and visitors that urban runoff flows directly to Lake Mead.

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Las Vegas Wash Project Coordination Team • 100 City Parkway, Suite 700 • Las Vegas, NV 89106 • (702) 822-3300