American Coots are quite common throughout much of the country, so we tend to overlook them. But they are strange little beasts, and worthy of study. They spend much of their time on the water, feeding on aquatic plants, propelling themselves with their lobed toes. Despite the fact that at least some populations undertake long migrations, you almost never see these birds in the air. When alarmed they often run along surface of the water, flapping their wings, but they seldom actually become airborn. One observation from 1931 described a large flock of coots migrating on foot.
These birds do fly, after a long running start, but migration apparently occurs at night in small groups. I think I will make it a goal to actually notice a coot in flight. Despite the many thousands of these birds I have seen over the years, I have no recollection of a flying coot. As I rapidly approach the status of “old coot” myself, I think this is a worthy goal.