email a friend
printable version
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour This species is both sedentary and nomadic (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005), often making local movements (Taylor and van Perlo 1998) in response to rainfall, water levels and the availability of its favoured foods (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005) (e.g. pondweed Potamogeton pectinatus) (Urban et al. 1986). The timing of the breeding season varies geographically (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species is a solitary territorial breeder (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) although it is occasionally observed in family groups (Hockey et al. 2005), with flocks of non-breeding individuals also occurring during the breeding season (Taylor and van Perlo 1998, Hockey et al. 2005). After breeding the species becomes more gregarious (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), forming flocks which range in size from small groups of 10-12 individuals, to larger, loose-knit groups of 20-330 (Langrand 1990), occasionally also to large flocks of up to 1,000 or more (Hockey et al. 2005). Adults may undergo a flightless moult period that lasts 49-59 days at any time of the year (Urban et al. 1986, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). During this time moulting birds remain out on open water among full-winged birds, possibly to avoid predation (Urban et al. 1986, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Habitat The species requires wetlands with submerged aquatic vegetation and still water for foraging, and waters with fringing or emergent vegetation in which to nest when breeding (del Hoyo et al. 1996). During periods of flightless moult adults also prefer more permanent open waters rich in submerged aquatic vegetation (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Suitable habitats include open freshwater or slightly brackish (Langrand 1990, Gomez 2002) lakes, lagoons, ponds, dams, and permanent or temporary pans, flood-plains (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005), sewage ponds, reed, papyrus and Typha swamps (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005), and occasionally rivers and tidal lagoons (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996). Diet The species is omnivorous, its diet consisting predominantly of the shoots, fruits and seeds of submerged or floating aquatic plants (such as aquatic ferns Marsila spp., knotweed Aeschynomene fluitans, Polygonum limbatum, saw-weed Najas pectinata, pondweed Potamogeton pectinatus, ditch grass Ruppia maritima and water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes), filamentous and macroscopic algae (Hockey et al. 2005), and grass, as well as molluscs, crustaceans, insects and occasionally carrion (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is a platform of reeds and other aquatic plant material (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998) built either on open water (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998) (sometimes anchored to water-lilies or on rafts of fresh, green reeds) (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998), or within emergent vegetation (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998) on a foundation of bent and trampled stems (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). No attempt at concealing the nest is made (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), although the site chosen usually facilitates quick and easy access to open water (Hockey et al. 2005). Management information Adequate wetland management can increase the breeding success of this species (e.g. limiting the areas with grazing livestock, maintaining stable water-levels during the breeding season,providing more vegetation for nesting and reducing disturbance can all have positive effects) (Gomez 2002).

The species is susceptible to avian botulism (Blaker 1967, van Heerden 1974) so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the disease. It is also threatened by poisoning, both intentionally (pest control) and unintentionally (pesticides used on crops) (Hockey et al. 2005). The species is threatened in Spain and Morocco (the northernmost range extremes) primarily by habitat loss and degradation due to changes in hydrological regime, over-exploitation of catchments and sedimentation (which are altering the periods of wetland flooding), agricultural, industrial and domestic pollution, overgrazing (cattle herds), the burning of reeds, and the introduction of alien species (e.g. Louisiana Swamp Crayfish Procambarus clarkii and Ciprinidae fish which both reduce the availability of food and hence increase competition) (Gomez 2002).

Blaker, D. 1967. An outbreak of Botulinus poisoning among waterbirds. Ostrich 38(2): 144-147.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Gomez, C. R. 2002. Action plan for the Crested Coot (Fulica cristata). Convention on the conservation of European wildlife Standing Committee, Strasburg.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Langrand, O. 1990. Guide to the birds of Madagascar. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Taylor, B. 1998. Rails: a guide to the rails, crakes, gallinules and coots of the world. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Urban, E. K.; Fry, C. H.; Keith, S. 1986. The birds of Africa vol. II. Academic Press, London.

van Heerden, J. 1974. Botulism in the Orange Free State goldfields. Ostrich 45(3): 182-184.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

International Action Plan

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Fulica cristata. Downloaded from on 11/02/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 11/02/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, Coots)
Species name author Gmelin, 1789
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 5,290,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change
- 2015 European Red List assessment