The Horned Coots (Fulica cornuta) is a rare species of bird found at lakes in the altiplano of north-western Argentina, south-western Bolivia, and north-eastern Chile. It is almost entirely restricted to altitudes of 3000-5200 m.a.s.l., but has occasionally been recorded at lower altitudes. It is among the largest members of the Rallidae family.
This species of coot was described by Bonaparte in 1853 based on a specimen collected in the Andes of Bolivia. For long it was known only from this type specimen. It is generally a low-density species and the total population has been estimated at 10.000-20.000, with as few as 620 in the Chilean part of its range. Consequently, it is considered to be near threatened by BirdLife International and IUCN..
With a total length of 46–62 cm (18–24 in), it averages slightly smaller than the related Giant Coot, and their distributions overlap in parts of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
While most coots have a horny shield on the forehead, the Horned Coot has three wattles in both sexes. The central wattle is large and may possibly be erectile. The three wattles terminate in tufts of filoplumes. At the base of the beak and below the wattle is a fleshy caruncle which is whitish. The bill is olive yellow, brightening to dull orange towards the base. Unlike the Giant Coot, the legs of the Horned Coot are dull greenish.
Nesting / Breeding
The Horned Coots is monogamous, and sometimes breeds in colonies of up to 80 pairs. The huge nest is typically located about 40 metres from the shore in the waters of the high altitude lakes where it breeds.
Pebbles are piled by the birds to form an artificial island that reaches the water surface. This island is then covered with algae to form the nest. It has been estimated that the pebble mounds may weigh as much as 1.5 tons and they are refurbished in each season.
They breed from November to January.