Coot Report

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

A brief mention here of an article in the Dutch newspaper Trouw that just might represent something quintessentially Dutch. It’s actually in the paper’s Groen! (“Green!”) section, which makes a lot of sense since it’s mainly a report – on the website of a major national newspaper, mind you – about the fortunes of a pair of common waterfowl, specifically two coots. Reporter Koos Dijksterhuis’ lede:

The coots had already been busy for weeks with the defense of their nest. Every presumed enemy was driven away with elan by a fierce flapping of wings. Finally the family swam around, but with seven chicks.

And so on, continuing to the depiction of an idyllic family meal. But it’s hardly all sweetness and light. There’s mention of parent coots even pecking their young to death if they find them too much trouble, but in this case things don’t come to that. Instead, Dijksterhuis notes that none of the seven chicks are to be seen after only five days, victims of one predator or another. Especially suspicious as culprits are the sea gulls (specifically, black-backed gulls), which have even been known to hunt young coot chicks in pairs: the first swoops over, prompting the chick to dive in panic, but then the second is there to snatch it when it resurfaces.

Dijksterhuis goes on to note that he sees many more such gulls than he can recall in the past. Is it because of the prey of this sort that they can find inland, or something else? Anyway, note well that this piece – labeled natuurdagboek or “nature diary,” so that it seems to be part of a series – appeared the very same day as nationalwide elections were happening here in the Netherlands. The “printing” capacity of the Internet is truly without limit.

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