It’s hardly a secret that we love coots around here (the birds, not senile old men!) We love them in their magnificent diversity from their black, beknobbed heads to their fantastic fissipalmate feet. Our affection for them is so deep that we can get lost for hours in the tiny little details that separate Black Coots from American Coots. So it should come as no surprise that I couldn’t resist sharing a coot poem I just discovered.

This poem, blandly entitled The Coot, is by no means new. Mary Howitt (1799-1888) contrived it at some time in the 19th century for the amusement of her children. Other verses from her Sketches of Natural History series are probably more deserving of fanfare but they, even the ones that play it straight instead of referencing a higher power, don’t include coots!

I’m wondering if the ark referenced in this poem is a nest platform unmoored by a flood — if anyone has deeper insight into the author’s intent, please share in the comments.


Oh Coot! oh bold, adventurous Coot,
I pray thee tell to me,
The perils of that stormy lime
That bore thee to the sea!

I saw thee on the river fuir,
Within thy sedgy screen ;
Around thee grew the bulrush tall.
And reeds so strong and green.

The kingfisher came back again
To view thy fairy place ;
The stately swan sailed statelier by,
As if thy home to grace.

Cut soon the mountain-flood came down,
And bowed the bulrush strong ;
And far above those tall green reeds,
The waters poured along.

“And where is the, the Water-Coot,”
I cried, ” that creature good ?”
But then I saw thee in thine ark,
Regardless of the flood

Amid the foaming wave, thou sat’st.
And steer’dst thy little boat;
Thy nest of rush and water-reed
So bravely set afloat.

And on it went, and safely on
That wild and stormy tide;
And there thou sat’st, a mother-bird.
Thy young ones at thy Bide.

Oh Coot! oh bold, adventurous Coot,
I pray thee tell to me,
The perils of that stormy voyage
That bore thee to the sea!

Hadst thou no fear, as night came down
Upon thy watery way.
Of enemies, and dangers dire
That round about thee lay?

Didst thou not see the falcon grim
Swoop down as thou passed by?
And ‘mong the waving water flags
The lurking otter lie!

The eagle’s scream came wildly near,
Yet, caused it no alarm?
Nor man, who seeing thee, weak thing,
Did strive to do thee harm?

And down the foaming waterfall.
As thou wast borne along,
Hadst thou no dread? Oh daring bird,
Thou hadst a spirit strong!

Yes, thou hadst fear. But He who sees
The sparrows when they fall;
He saw thee. bird, and gave thee strength
To brave thy perils all.

He kept thy little ark afloat;
He watched o’er thine and thee;
And safely through the foaming flood
Hath brought thee to the sea.

Oh bold, adventurous coot!

If you liked this poem and would like to browse the entire archive of poetry posts on 10,000 Birds please check out our Bird Poems page.

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.