While looking for sandhill cranes on Bethel Island in California’s delta, we saw a large flock of black birds beside a field flooded for roosting sandhill cranes. About the size of ducks, the birds are called coots, and a group of coots is called a cover.
A coot is black with a white bill and frontal shield. From wikipedia, “Unlike the webbed feet of ducks, coots have broad, lobed scales on their lower legs and toes that fold back with each step in order to facilitate walking on dry land.” Coots stay together while looking for food. Below, the coots move forward as they got more comfortable with us, and some broad feet are visible as they walk.
Despite California’s drought, farmers are paid to flood fields to provide some space for migratory birds to winter in the delta, as they always have.
Later we saw thousands of flying black birds, probably coots. There are two clouds of birds: one higher and a denser cloud low on the horizon to the left of the grain elevator.