As we cast off from the mooring at Alameda's Fortman marina, I was fascinated by this dark gray bird swimming in the quiet harbor water - a scene resembling a colorful oil painting. The subject was an American Coot, commonly mistaken as a duck, but closer inspection shows it to be a different kind of bird entirely. Their dark bodies and white faces are common in many ponds, marshes, and parks throughout the country and they often mix with ducks. But they don't have a duck's webbed feet. Instead, their feet form individual lobes that give them an advantage when walking on mud or dry land. It turns out this strange bird is a closer relative to the graceful sandhill crane. That's hard to believe!