“Lend me your comb…”

Little Blue Heron, preening

Preening is essential to the Little Blue Heron’s life, as he’s continually probing his bill into marsh muck, not to mention wading through muddy waters…

Here we see Lyle using his bill to massage his long, stringy “powder down.” This highly specialized down gets its name from its ability to disintegrate into a cleansing powder. Rubbing it into his upper plumage, Lyle gives himself a “dry shampoo” and will then simply shake off the dust.

At the same time, Lyle can also use a special fringed claw on his middle toe to comb through his lower powder down and work it into his feathers. I can’t tell whether he’s actually doing this in the photo, but you can see that his free foot is positioned in the right place to start the process. It certainly helps that Lyle is so comfortable resting on one leg!

TRIVIA: Do you remember the song to which our headline alludes?


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