An American Coot was discovered walking around Gardner’s downtown area last week. Submitted photo

Mark Taylor
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Jina Houston, owner of the Downtowner Cafe, was sitting in front of her business last week when a couple approached her and asked to buy “a couple pieces of bread.”
Curious, Houston asked the couple why they wanted the bread.
They replied that they were trying to coax a “duck” off of Main Street.
Houston retrieved the bread but realized the bird in question was no duck.
Regardless, the trio tried without success to capture the bird in a box with the intent of releasing it in a more rural area.
The bird evaded capture and eventually disappeard into some bushes near the former downtown post office.
“I was afraid it was going to get hit (by a car),” Houston said. “But he wasn’t having anything to do with that box.”
Following three days of researching books and the Internet, Houston identified the bird as a member of the American Coot species.
“It’s a beautiful bird,” she said. “Its toes look like leaves with fingernails on the ends.”
According to Wikipedia, the American Coot is a water fowl whose breeding habitat consists of “marshes from southern Quebec to the Pacific coast of North America and as far south as northern South America.”
American Coots are considered “weak flyers” and “require a great deal of effort to become airborne, pedaling across the water with their feet before lifting off, according to Wikipedia.
But once airborne, American Coots have “considerable stamina” and records show that members of the species have flown across the Atlantic to western Europe at least 23 times.
Houston said she has no idea how the bird got to Gardner, but believes it is still roaming somewhere in the downtown area.
“He was just walking around town,” she said.