Early morning along the shore, I passed this Blue Heron perched on a dead cypress limb as the sun rose over Chocowinity Bay.
The frayed feathers on the heron’s chest are called “powder down.” The bird can crush these feathers into a powder with a fringed claw on its middle toe and apply it to the feathers on its underbelly. The powder keeps those feathers from becoming fouled and oily wading in the swamps. The swamp slime clumps on the feathers and the heron brushes it off with its feet.
The heron also uses the powder to remove the slimy oil from fish.