Saturday, 4 June 2011

Breeding Red-knobbed Coot

Red-knobbed Coot or Crested Coot (Fulica cristata) is one of the rarest breeding birds in Europe, considered ‘Endangered’ within the EU. It’s certainly a very rare bird in Portugal with no more than three or four records annually and one that we have seen here on only a handful of occasions.

Back in March there was a report of a bird on a small pond near Viseus, about 15km from Castro Verde in the Baixo Alentejo. Since then, throughout April and May, it has been seen there regularly in the company of a Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) leading to the obvious speculation that they might be breeding. Yesterday we got the answer when we visited the site and found the two of them taking it in turns to feed their single, newly hatched, hybrid offspring.

The Portuguese breeding bird atlas has two records of possible breeding here during the years 1999-2005, in both cases involving at least one bird that was identified, presumably from a neck-collar, as originating from the captive breeding programme that is ongoing in neighbouring Andalucía. Other than those, there do not seem to be any records of breeding in Portugal in recent times.

Last year, we saw a similar hybrid pairing at the Marismas del Odiel in Spain but it doesn’t seem to be an occurrence that is much recorded or documented.

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