Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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from Echo Park

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Our floaty friends

CootNot everyone sees sickness unto death when they visit the birds at Echo Park lake. Sometimes it's the sound and the fury. A few days ago, I received a note from Darrell Kunitomi, an Echo Park native (born and raised, and current resident) who knows the lake well. Darrell wrote:

Dropped by the lake on my way into downtown [a few days ago], had a bag of old bread to feed to our floaty friends - gulls, coots, ducks, geese. As expected it caused a watery stampede. I had old graham crackers, old wheat bread and some really old Schat's olive bread I never got around to eating. The fowl were a little slow on the take when they bit into the olive stuff. I did happen to notice some interesting behavior I'd never seen. It was, for me, an oldtime Echo Park Lake lurker, a bonafide first: I think I witnessed coot rage.
Now, coots are odd ducks, with an odd call. I believe they're as memorable as pigeons, that is, they're a lot of them and who really cares for coots? But this strange behavior caught my eye this morning -- two coots were dukin' it out like champs, riding the water on their tushes, wings akimbo, flailing, weird little feets kicking out doing kung fu things at each other, screaming funny cooty sounds. I'd never seen such a thing. It must have been two males, had to be. It totally looked like a male thing. "Dude, I'm the baddest coot!" "No foo!, not this time!", whatever coot males say when they get angry and fight.

We've seen male animals go at it - rams ramming each other, grizz standing, pawing, biting, roaring, eagles tossing about in mid-air, talons flying. But tell ya, seeing enraged coots Bruce Leeing each other was fascinating.

No question, coots are odd ducks, so to speak, with those huge green-yellow feet and little round black bodies, and, of course, the strange sounds they make. I dislike the sight of fighting in any species, but I wish I'd seen the karate spectacle of coots with feet flying.

Click here to hear a coot.

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