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Home » Santa Clarita News » Environment » SCV Outdoor Report » SCV Outdoor Report: Fissipalmate

SCV Outdoor Report: Fissipalmate



by Wendy Langhans

For those of you who like to play Jeopardy, here a word for you:  fissipalmate.  And the question is … wait for it …. ”What word describes the shape of the American Coot’s foot?”


Fissipalmate is an adjective used to describe a bird foot with “lobed or partially webbed separated toes”.   Click here to see what a lobed toe looks like or click here to see a Coot’s foot.


To describe the appearance of something is all well and good, but what really matters is what it’s good for.  We can describe a wrench as a “crescent, socket or torque” but it’s more important to know how and when to use each one.  So how does a Coot use its fissipalmate foot?

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Let me count the ways:

1)  Staying cool on a hot day.  Their lobed feet have a large surface area, all the better to dissipate heat in the water on a hot day.

2)  Propulsion through the water.  Imagine yourself swimming laps in a pool.  Now imagine yourself swimming laps with swim fins on your feet.

3)  Splattering across the surface of the water.  According to this description from Stanford University, “Coots are among the least graceful of marsh birds. Commonly called “splatterers,” they scramble across the surface of the water with wings flapping not only to confront intruders but also to become airborne”.  Click here to see splattering in slow motion.

4)  A weapon used in fighting.  Coots are extremely territorial and this is what the Stanford website has to say about their fighting:  “While fighting, a coot usually sits back on the water and grabs its opponent with one long-clawed foot while attempting to slap the contender with the free one and jab it with its bill.  Apparently, the aim is to push the opponent onto its back and, in some cases, hold it underwater.”  Click here to see how Coots use their feet when fighting.

Cooling off, swimming, running across the water and fighting –  fissipalmate feet certainly are a multipurpose tool.  I wonder if Sears carries it in their Craftsman line?

(And for those of you who can’t get enough of Jeopardy, here’s the final word for today:  feetierologist.  But don’t ask me what it means – ask George Cummings.)


Upcoming Outdoor Events:

Trail Maintenance Schedule.  Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails.  Contact Steve at for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, February 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29.
Saturday mornings, January 11 & 25.

Saturday, February 18, 8-10 AM.  Wild birds of February. With our local deciduous trees bare, not is a great time to view exposed nests and the homes of our feathered friends.  Beginners are welcome on this easy walk. Bring binoculars. Meet at Towsley Canyon’s front parking lot.  For a map and directions, click here.

Sunday, February 25, 10 AM – 12 PM.  The Earliest Wildflowers.  Wildflowers already?  Let’s look at some early season wildflowers. For a map and directions, click here.


You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to

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SCV Outdoor Report: Fissipalmate

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