This is a very realistic Coot (also called a Mud Hen) working decoy. We checked with collector experts who suggested that very likely it was made by someone living in the Havre de Grace, Maryland area of the Chesapeake Bay on the mid-Atlantic coast.
Life size (about 2/3 the size of a Mallard duck) and very realistic, our Coot has a lead weight to keep it upright in the water and a loop for tethering. Please look at all our pictures - the "feathers" show or disappear depending on the light, just like a real bird's do. Also note its red eyes are painted, not glass or tacks.
CONDITION: Please look at our pictures! We have NOT cleaned it. The wood is sound and the head is solidly attached. It appears to have been shot over (tiny holes in the sides) and the bill has chipping damage that may have been inflicted at the same time - "honorable scars" from use and not accidental damage.
There is no signature or other marking, but as collectors will affirm, carving style is very significant in identifying a decoy's origin. Over a period of many years, carvers in different areas of the country developed their own unique "looks" to the decoys they crafted.
Coots offer a unique decoy collecting experience. Collectors comprise a minority group in the overwhelmingly duck-oriented waterfowl decoy interest area. Because the vast majority of early hunters pursued ducks, the vast majority of decoys are ducks. However, there have always been coot hunters who used decoys created specifically to attract them, and coot hunting remains a favorite among quite a few of today's waterfowl hunters.
ABOUT COOTS: They are not ducks -- they are members of the Rail family. They like to congregate in flocks and swim in open water, but prefer thick shoreline vegetation, marshes and swamps for breeding. Unlike ducks - which are more streamlined - coots' bodies are plump, resembling chickens, better adapted to life among plants rather than open water. Their excessively large feet make takeoff into flight difficult.
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