A question regarding a bird species that we share (where "we" means you
Australians, us temporary Belgians, and much of the rest of the
planet). I was conducting a breeding bird survey at some disgustingly
early hour in the morning last week at one of our local fish ponds here
in the Dijle Valley. At this time of year the local Coots are even more
aggressive than normal (for all the obvious reasons) and are regularly
seen pursuing each other across the surface of the water, or indeed
along the muddy pond margins, while making lots of bizarre noises that
even an Apostlebird would be proud of...
This particular morning I saw two coots engage in a lengthy "duel".
This consisted of leaning far back while in the water, facing one
another, and engaging each other with their feet. There was much
screaming and wing flapping, and the actual contact seemed to continue
for an extrardinary length of time (perhaps one minute). I almost
thought it was some sort of mating ritual when the action briefly
halted, there was a big chase across the pond, and then it started up
again for another 30 seconds or so. This time the process appeared to
cease for reasons not quite clear, and one bird threw in the towel.
The following questions spring to mind. Firstly, and obviously, is this
common behaviour and how many other people have seen this performance?
Has anyone seen any other species behave similarly? And is much known
about the hierarchy of Coot society? They seem to be highly aggressive
in the breeding season. It strikes me that it must be quite hard to
defend a "territory" in shallow water and lake margins, but then most
other species seem to be able to do it with slightly less fuss...
All thoughts welcome...
Keith M. Martin Tel +32 16 32 18 62
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Fax +32 16 32 19 86
Kardinaal Mercierlaan 94