Thursday, September 1, 2011

American Coot

When I looked out my kitchen window this morning, I saw a common sight - my cat stalking something.  I've mentioned her before.  We got her as a kitten from a barn - once a barn cat, always a barn cat.  She hunts.  It's what she does. 

I wasn't sure what she saw, but I assumed it was a mouse or a sparrow.  Whatever it was was on the other side of a fence (it's a "T" where a fence goes straight across and then has another coming out the back of it  - so there are three sides to the fence - if that makes sense) and she tore around a corner to find it.  Not there, she tore around the other corner.  Thinking that the mouse must have had time to escape, I didn't think much about it until I saw this thing move through the fence.  It was big - bigger than a mouse.  And I feared a repeat of the squirrel incident from a few weeks ago (when she brought home a dead one).  So I tore around the corner and came face to face with a bird I've never, ever seen before.  It had these amazingly big feet - like a land bird, but every toe was really wide and they were green.  The bird itself looked like it had very small wings with white patches and the bill or beak was different.  The bird slowly and calmly, head down, walked into the bushes at the side of our property.

I grabbed the cat and took the killer inside.  The bird didn't need to deal with her!  And then I hit the bird guides.  What the hell was this thing? It seemed to me to be immature.  And lost.

Sure enough, I found one bird that looked similar, but the feet were wrong - and the colouring.  I thought it might be an immature Sora, but the feet were wrong.  Once I got the Internet up and running, I was able to do a better search.  The Sora was wrong, but the right feet were found on the American Coot (a relative of the Sora).  Sure enough, they do live in Alberta, but the bill was wrong.  Until I looked at juvenile ones.  This is the closest picture I found:

The bill isn't quite right.  The one I saw had a white or yellow bill and had a couple of white patches on the wings - but those are definitely the feet!  And the colouring is about right. 

The American Coot is found in Alberta - but normally in marshes and in groups.  So mine was lost and tired and took a rest at our house.  Looked like it curled up in the corner of the fence for the night.  I really hope it has flown away and found some friends or family by now - I took another look for it, but couldn't find it in ours or the neighbour's yard.  I've got the cat inside, but she is not happy with me and won't shut up.  Soon I'll let her go back out there.

So, little American Coot.  Find your way home.  I worry about creatures like this - especially young birds.  I'm not sure why ... but I do.  I guess I worry that it never will find its family or find its way back to where it needs to be.  It's the same as when I see a robin here way too early in the spring (worry about them freezing), or see a baby bluejay in the back yard (worry about the cat killing it).  I want them to grow up and have a good life.  Silly, perhaps, but that's how I feel. 

This bird gave me a gift, though.  In exchange for removing the cat from it's life, it gave me the gift of knowledge.  I didn't know what an American Coot was before today.  And now I do.  Thanks (not so) little bird.

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