[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
IS a species of the wild duck. The manner in which they build their nest is very ingenious. They form it of interwoven watery weeds, and place it among the rushes, in such a way that it may occasionally rise with, but not be washed away by, the stream; and if ever that accident happens, steady on her nest the hen does not desert her brood, and follows with them the destiny of the floating cradle. This bird in the figure and shape of his body resembles the water hen, and weighs about twenty-four ounces. The feathers about the head and neck are low, soft, and thick. The colour about the whole of the body is black, but of a deeper hue about the head. The cere rises upon the forehead in a peculiar manner, and appears as if Providence had contrived this sort of helmet as a means of defence. It changes its white colour to a pale red or pink in the breeding season. They are very shy and seldom venture abroad before dusk.
The Coot is mentioned in the Georgics of Virgil, among the marine birds who fortell the approaching storm;
When sportful Coots run skimming o’er the strand,
and is met in various parts of the continent. His flesh, although it has a strong marshy taste, is reckoned very good by certain persons, whilst little esteemed by others.