Thursday, January 22, 2009

Coot Overload


When one travels to Florida, one might reasonably expect to encounter large numbers of old coots. As someone who has already gotten mailed membership offers from the AARP (at 46, I can already smell the Ben Gay aroma of 50) I wonder about the millions of people who retire to warm, sunny Florida.

I can see why—there are amazing natural spectacles to behold among the birds and beasts, and there are great discounts at Denny's. There is a Denny's on every third corner.


The largest group of coots I have encountered on this trip was on the Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island NWR. It was a cold, windy afternoon and the coots were gathered together in large, swimming clusters. They seemed to be bathing, but why would they want to do this together? Were they clustered for protection from predators? It could be—there were several bald eagles around, looking for grub in all the right places. Was it to help reduce the chilling effect of the wind? Did it have a social function? Many birds begin their courtship before migration itself begins.

Or was it just because this was fun? It felt good to be mixing it up, splashing, wheeling, and grunting with 400 of your fellow coots?

I'd be interested in your hypotheses, theories, and answers.

Or maybe it was because there was a super discount on an all-you-care-to-eat buffet, just for old coots.

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