A kaleidoscopic coot chick

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Photos by Bill Steinkamp

Photo by Diane Carter

As one of our Facebook fans recently put it, “You wouldn’t think such a plain adult would come from such a psychedelic chick.”

While American Coot adults have gray/black bodies and white bills, their chicks by contrast have a rebellious streak, including this bird in care at our Los Angeles center.

According to a 1994 study published in Nature, the more colorful the plumage, the better chance for survival in this species. “[P]arent coots feed ornamented chicks preferentially over non-ornamented chicks, resulting in higher growth rates and greater survival for ornamented chicks,” researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Calgary wrote. “Moreover, we show that parental preference is relative, rather than absolute, an important element in the evolution of exaggerated traits.”

A member of the Rallidae family that includes crakes and gallinules, coots are year-round residents in local freshwater wetlands.

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This coot came to us via California Wildlife Center last Friday, and is now self-feeding, having gained 12 grams in the past few days, rehabilitation technician Kelly Berry reports. What’s on the menu for this bird? Mealworms, as you can see here, along with other types of food including cut-up smelt and bloodworms.

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