A rather striking member of the rail family (Rallidae), the Caribbean coot (Fulica caribaea) is a wetland bird with a bright white beak which contrasts sharply with its dark plumage. The body of the Caribbean coot is greyish-black overall, with a black head and neck and slightly paler underparts (2) (3). The undertail-coverts are white (2) (3), and the wings have a white leading edge and narrow whitish tips to the secondary feathers (2).
Like other coots, the Caribbean coot has a prominent fleshy protuberance, known as a ‘frontal shield’, extending from the beak onto the forehead. In this species, the frontal shield is white, sometimes with a yellowish tinge, and extends well up onto the crown of the head (2) (3).
The Caribbean coot’s bill is also white, and may have a reddish-brown mark or band near the tip. The eyes of this species are red and its legs and feet are dull yellowish to yellowish-green (2). Like other coots, the Caribbean coot has unusual, lobed toes (2).
Although the male and female Caribbean coot are similar in appearance, the female is usually slightly smaller than the male (2). The juvenile is paler than the adult, being a more uniform grey (2) (3).
There is contention over whether the Caribbean coot is a true species or rather a subspecies of the American coot (Fulica americana) (2) (4). The two are virtually identical in appearance, the only distinguishing feature being that the American coot typically, but not always, has a smaller white frontal shield that often has a dark reddish callus at the top (2). Furthermore, the Caribbean coot and American coot have been observed to interbreed in the wild, leading some scientists to propose that they simply represent a single species which varies in its frontal shield (5) (6).
The Caribbean coot produces a variety of croaking, cackling and clucking calls which are indistinguishable from those of the American coot (2) (3).
- Length: 33 - 38 cm (2)
- c. 650 g (2)