Mystery Solved!

On our recent trip east we met a very strange bird  – black with a white frontal shield and beak, and unusual scalloped webbing on its feet. It was hanging out in the water and on shore with the ducks and geese, but it wasn’t like any duck we’d ever seen before. It looked slightly like a pukeko, but decidedly unlike a pukeko in its behaviour. We were quite puzzled.

Fulica atra australis

Remember this little guy?

Finally today I checked my bird id books and all was revealed. No wonder we had not recognized this species. It was an Australian invader!!!!

Australian Coot.  Fulica atra australis.  

According to my bird books and a bit of internet research, they’ve introduced themselves to NZ through the earlier part of the 1900s, and really settled in during the 1950’s, perhaps during a particularly dry season or two in Aussie.  Or perhaps they just recognize a great place to live!  They are now considered to be a New Zealand native and are apparently quite common in some areas, mostly in the North Island, Otago and Canterbury.  Even though they are actually related to the pukeko  (Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus) being in the Rallidae family, the coot is more likely to be found  on clean clear lakes and lagoons, unlike the marshy mires that the pukeko prefers.

So here endeth today’s biology lesson! 

3 responses to “Mystery Solved!

  1. Believe it or not…I had guessed it might be a coot, with that colour, shape and white beak. Looks very similar to our coots. Didn’t think for a minute that’s what it would be called on the other side of the world. Quite common in this country.

  2. Aw! he’s a cute little guy!

  3. Ken – having now found a picture of the coots from your side of the world they are pretty much the same to look at as the ones we saw. Apparently they are becoming more common here. First time we have seen them tho’.

    Erika – They are kind of cute – unusual to look at though when we are used to a much taller bird with more colours and a red facial shield of the pukeko. The coots are quite confident too – they weren’t scared off by the much bigger geese and ducks that were hanging around us looking for food too.