Dabbling Hens: Coots in Dal lake

Coot known as ‘Kolar’ in Kashmir was a common visitor to our wetlands but since few years Dal Lake has become their favourite destination.
File Photo
File Photo

Dal lake is an overwintering site for these visitors. Coots considered as weak flyers have been flying to the valley from far distances since a number of years. Coots prefer shallow open waters with plenty of underwater vegetation and small fish, so Dal lake has become their overwintering site now. Every year thousands of Eurasian Coots also known as common Coots have been visiting Dal Lake and other open water wetlands during their winter migration.  The scientific name of Coots is Fulica atra and is found in Europe, Asia, Australia and parts of Africa. Though commonly mistaken as ducks, coots belong to the family Rallidae that is the family of Moorhens. They have partial webbing on their strong, long toes and is seen swimming in open water and walking along waterside grasslands. Although it is reluctant to fly but runs across water surface with much splashing, and during migration it surprisingly covers large distances. It bobs its head as it swims and makes short dives into the water. Coots take a variety of food, algae, vegetation, seeds and fruit and it upends in water like dabbling ducks and also takes dives in search of food. Coot is listed as "Least Concern" under the IUCN conservation rating, the reason might be that hunters generally avoid killing these birds because their meat is not as sought after as that of ducks. 

Coots, known as 'Kolar' in Kashmir, was a common visitor to our wetlands but since few years Dal Lake has become their favourite destination. Rafts of Coots in long zig zag lines and huge circles can be seen adorning the Dal Lake. One can spend hours together watching these black beauties with white bills dribbling on the shimmering waters. These birds are otherwise considered to be secretive birds but here in Dal Lake they are a common site adored by bird watchers and nature lovers. Covers of Coots are enhancing the beauty of this water wonder, these birds are affecting the ecosystem in a positive manner.

Coots are always busy in the morning hours, collecting the bounty from Dal, depositing it in their bodies for the future flights. Occasionally Coots along with Dabchicks can be seen doing merry go rounds in the placid environs of the lake. As many lakes and wetlands are vanishing, the waterbirds both overwintering and residents are loosing their habitat so Dal Lake has now become vital for their survival. Now it has become imperative to redeem the lakes and wetlands that are in decline, in order to  save the waterbird communities.

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