Coot, waiting for us beside the parking lot.
"Crazy as a coot," they say. And often justify the saying by telling of its voice, squeaks or metallic scraping noises, clicks, sometimes a bottle cork sound, sometimes a cough, always unmusical. (sound file of a metallic call here). Others reference its swimming style; not gliding, but bouncing along, bobbing its head with the effort. Or watch its awkward attempts at take-off. Because its wings are short, it needs to get up a good speed to lift off, so it runs over the surface of the water, splashing and squawking for up to 100 feet.
Photo from Wikipedia
I think it's simpler than that; just look at the bird!
An odd, misshapen body. Too short, as if it were half a bird, lopped off before the tail. A black neck-warmer pulled up like a hood over the eyes. Red eyes. Green legs with an orange garter, feet in a dead-meat greyish blue. The stark white bill is too long for the face, so it rises to the forehead, pinned on with a coloured button at the top.
The "button", or frontal shield, on this coot is reddish-brown; the next one has a yellow border on its shield.
And the feet:
Huge, floppy feet, three sizes too big for the little bird. How it manages to walk without tripping over its own toes is a mystery.
Watch it dive:
Underwater now, but the feet still at the surface. It makes quite a "hole" in the water as it goes down.
The weirdest thing about the coot's dive is the way it surfaces. Sometimes it pops up like any normal diving duck, but often it comes up the way it went down; head down, tail up. It looks like a video in reverse.