HAWAIIAN COOT (Fulica alai) – ʻAlae ke’oke’o – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: This bird is a little more than 12 inches (30 cm) long, is mostly black with a white shield above the bill, which is white also (most of the time). Both sexes are similar. Although capable of flying, they rarely do so.
NAME: The English name ‘Coot’ has an uncertain origin which might be related to that of ‘scoter’ and to Dutch ‘koet’. The Latin genus name ‘Fulica’ derives from ‘fuligo’, which means ‘soot’, in reference to the bird’s color. This coot species is endemic to Hawaii, hence the English name.
HABITAT: Mainly fresh water wetlands (marshes, ponds).
DIET: As with other coots, the Hawaiian coot eats mainly vegetation and invertebrates that they dive for in shallow water.
NESTING: A floating nest with between three and 10 white eggs.
DISTRIBUTION: Main Hawaiian islands. Endemic to Hawaii.
CONSERVATION: The Hawaiian coot is endangered due to habitat loss and the mongoose, which eat their eggs and chicks. It is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN.
NOTES: Coots are part of the Rail family, and are a type of ‘water hen’. They have strong legs and feet like hens, which enable them to run on land, and the toes are large enough (see photos below) to allow them some good swimming.
SIMILAR SPECIES: The Hawaiian coot is very similar to the American coot and the Eurasian coot. It was previously considered as a subspecies of the American Coot.
Hawaiian Coot Fact Sheet – DLNR Hawaii
This Hawaiian coot below was filmed in Kailua from a bridge along a local road. This area is part of the Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh Complex.