Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Black Beauties

Two Januaries ago, Seattle froze pretty solid. But the days were brilliantly sunny, and so I headed over to the bit of North Creek that has a big pond and some blueschist.

Floating upon the pond were some of the most exotic waterbirds I’ve ever seen.

Image shows a bird with a dark black head, charcoal-gray body, and white beak with a black stripe at the tip. Between its eyes is a dark red oval, and its eyes are a brighter red.

Isn’t that just exquisite? They look very oriental, with that gem between their eyes. I was fascinated by them, as I’d never seen anything like them around here before.

Another of the black birds, swimming toward the camera.

I’ve been holding off on posting them all this time, because I keep thinking I will never see waterbirds this striking again, and I want to save them as a treat. Today, you’re getting your treat, because I don’t want to wait any longer.

Image shows one of the birds swimming away. The underside of its short tail is white.

They have only these two bits of white, fore and aft. It’s a nice accent.

I would love to say they are elegant all the time, but on land, they’re kind of goofy.

Image shows two of the birds on the shore, picking through the grasses. They are kind of plump and awkward now.

Still, the fact the kind of resembled dodos didn’t deter me from loving them a lot. And they made such odd sounds, almost like a toy – I don’t know how to describe it, other than a sort of creaky groan that sounded as if a very old squeak toy was being stepped on. It was fascinating.

This year, we went back to the pond, and they were there.

Image shows one of the birds on a gray-brown pond, swimming away.

The sun was obscured by a thick, high fog that looked like dark storm clouds, so there wasn’t all that luscious light to make their little biogem glow. There weren’t as many, and they weren’t making the same noises. But they were still wonderful.

Image shows one of the birds swimming toward the tall dead shore grass.

They make me think of India, and the raj. I think they make a palace of any pond they’re floating in. And I like them so much that you can see about twelve million more photos of them at Flickr.

Please don’t tell me they’re some horrible invasive species. Tell me they’re some special amazing species. And tell me if there are any of these photos you want offered as prints – I’ll be happy to oblige!

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Black Beauties

8 thoughts on “Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Black Beauties

  1. rq

    That’s what the locals call a water chicken – or the American coot, if you prefer. It is a native species, as the one found here locally is the Eurasian coot. They look awfully similar, though! The American one has a bit of red at the top of the face shield (the white bit above the beak) and blue feet – I am unable to open your flickr at work and see if you got any good shots of the feet, but I’m 99.9% that this is the American coot – the Eurasian one hasn’t been introduced yet.
    I’ve observed the local species, and they’re quite wonderful. I notice the American version has very colourful chicks, much brighter than the European species!

  2. 2

    They’re my absolutely favourite birds. Coots. Next time, get a good look at their feet. And watch the way they dive; headfirst going down, tailfirst coming up.

  3. 7

    Dang. Trebuchet beat me to the “old coot” line. I think he might have a slightly stronger claim to it, though, given that he is actually retired.
    I agree with those above – don’t anyone buy Dana any biological-type field guides. Chasing down her mystery critters/flora is fun and educational.

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