THE WATER-HEN AND THE COOT
 IF your way to school lies along a river-path, where
trees hang over the water, you will very likely have
seen a water-hen and her little ones. Perhaps you may
know where a nest is, either among the rushes, or on a
bough of a tree over-hanging the water.
It is made of dead rushes, and though it is quite close
to the water, it is dry and warm. If you are bathing
you may look in. You will find about eight pale-grey
eggs spotted with red-brown patches. Or perhaps some of
the eggs may be hatched, and then the young birds will
be hidden with their mother in the rushes. They are
little black balls of fluff with red on their heads and
white tail-feathers, and they can run and swim directly
they are born. All the time you are looking, the
mother, hidden in the rushes, will cry "Crr-ook,
crr-ook" to drive you away.
She is a black bird, about as big as a pigeon, with a
bright red forehead and yellow beak. And she has white
feathers on the edge of her wings and under her tail.
When she is in the water, she keeps jerking her head
down, so that you see the white feathers, and even her
green legs with their red garters.
MOOR-HENS AND YOUNG.
Very soon after the young water-hens are hatched, they
slip out of the nest and swim
 round her. If you are lying very still among the
bushes, you may perhaps see them all come out on to the
bank, and feed on worms or snails. Then you can notice
that their feet are not webbed like a duck's feet, but
all four toes are separate.
But if you make the least noise, the mother will cry
"Krek-krek" to her little ones, and they will dive into
the water and swim to a safe place among the rushes.
They will not go back to the nest, and even if you beat
the rushes with a stick they will not move. They know
that they are safer in their hiding place.
This bird is often called a moor-hen and she goes to
the moors sometimes. But Water-hen is her better name.
And now, if there is a large lake anywhere near, you
will see the water-hen there, and another bird, which
may think is the same, for she jerks her head and dives
just in the same way. But if you look you will see that
this second bird has not got a red forehead, but a
large, bald patch on its head, and it is larger than
It is a bird called the coot, and often the
"bald-headed coot," because of its bald patch. If you
see one on the bank feeding on seeds or insects, you
will notice that it has a wavy skin round each if its
three front toes, though they are not joined together.
 But the coot is not easy to see, for she is very
shy. She runs up a tree, or dives under water, before
you can get near her. She has sharp claws, which help
her to climb, and which will hurt you if you catch her
She builds her nest among the flags or rushes, almost
touching the water. Sometimes her little ones are
drowned when there is a flood.
BALD-HEADED COOT AND YOUNG.
If a boat comes near her nest, she slips off it into
the rushes and cries "Kew-kew" to entice you away. If
you find it, you will see about ten eggs in it. They
are like the water-hen's eggs, but larger, and the
spots are darker and smaller. If the eggs are hatched,
you will you will know the little birds by their bald
patch, though they are black, fluffy balls, just like
those of the water-hen.
You will not find the coot in rivers; nor will you find
her on the ponds in the winter. Then she starts off
with a number of other coots to the sea in the south of
England, and stays till spring comes again.