The Eurasian Coot (fulica atra) has found itself a decent niche on the enclosed basins at Salford Quays. The coot is a close relative of the moorhen, and coots are the largest of the Rallidae or Rail species in the UK. They are sociable birds, and there is a little group of them numbering between 6 to 10 that are resident on the Quays year-round (well, for the past 2yrs that its been my lunchtime circuit) and can be seen swimming about the small enclosed basins and diving to pick at the weed and algae.
The coots are joyous to watch, because they dive down into the water with a little flourish, and then ten or so seconds later buoyantly reappear on the surface in another location, like a ping-pong ball released from the bottom and surprised to find itself plonked back on the surface. Their gloriously yellow outsize hooves are perfectly adapted for the uneven floating island sanctuaries of reeds that have been provide for them in the basins on Salford Quays, and earlier this year they were accompanied by their curiously flame-headed young, though how many of those have now matured, and how many have been predated I am ashamed to say that I do not know. Better records promised for next breeding season! During the breeding season coots are very territorial, but the rest of the time they placidly float about together.
What I did not know is that the Common Coot is considered to be a near-threatened species by the IUCN and has been undergoing a “moderately rapid population decline” due to (amongst other things) hunting – they are hunted for sport in Europe, they are also susceptible to petroleum pollution and wetland drainage, however in the UK the primary threat is predation by the much (rightly) maligned American Mink (I have inserted a pedestrian link there so that I don’t get sucked down an internet wormhole of non-native bastardry, to which I am admittedly susceptible).