It floats like a duck, but the American Coot isn't a duck -- it's a member of the rail family. At the beginning of the breeding season, coots build floating platforms in dense aquatic vegetation -- as many as seven, before the female selects the perfect location for her 8 to 12 eggs. Chicks leave the nest one to two days after hatching, when their down feathers are fluffy enough to maintain buoyancy. The parents protect and feed their young for another month, after which the growing juveniles become increasingly independent.
All photos © Gregg Thompson