How do herons and bitterns deal with fish slime?

Herons and bitterns are long-legged water birds. They wade about in shallow water darting their long beaks under the surface now and again to grab fishes. Alternatively, they may stand still in the water and wait for their prey to come to them. Let’s know detail abut how do herons and bitterns deal with fish slime.

They also eat small animal’s frogs, water voles, rats, other water birds and even young rabbits but fishes are the main part of their diet. As everybody knows, freshly caught fishes are very slimy and so the herons soon gets a lot of fish slime on its feathers.

The bittern has more gets a lot of fish slime on its feathers. The bittern has more of a problem. It is partial to eels which are covered with even more slime than fishes and which wriggle a great deal more when caught.

Herons and bitterns remove the slime by dusting themselves down with a fine powder produced from patches of special feathers. These feathers never fall out and are continually fraying at their ends to form the powder.

How do herons and bitterns deal with fish slime

Herons nest in treetop colonies. The nests are platforms of twigs and they are used year after year.

Herons distribute the powder over their feathers using the beak. Bitterns rub their slimy heads in the powder patch. After a short time, the powder absorbs the slime and the birds clean their plumage by combing it out with a specially serrated claw on the middle toe.

Why does a bitten freeze when startled? 

Rather than run away when disturbed, a bittern will thrust its head and neck into the air and stand motionless. This bird lives in the dense reed beds of marshes and it relies on its remarkable camouflage to escape detection.

How do herons and bitterns deal with fish slime

The bittern is adopting the defensive motionless posture. The bittern (above) is cleaning eel slime from its beak with its serrated claws.

The striped plumage of its breast lends perfectly with a background of reeds. By squinting under its beak in this position, the bittern can accurately judge the range of the intruder, and decide whether or not to fly off. 

Why were the egret’s feathers nearly its downfall?

In the breeding season, many egrets display beautiful long feathery plumes which grow from the head, breast, and back. At the turn of the century, these plumes, called aigrettes, became very popular for decorating hats.

The millinery trade demanded enormous numbers o aigrettes and thousands and thousands of birds were killed at a time of year when they were most vulnerable. Nests were deserted and chicks left to die to increase the disastrous effect of the slaughter.

How do herons and bitterns deal with fish slime

These Little Egrets at nest from southern Europe and Asia, African and Australia show the fine, trailing plumes that were so prized for decorating hats.

In the end, due to the efforts of conservation bodies publicizing the plight of the egrets, public opinion was turned against the use of aigrettes in hats and the demand slumped. The birds are now protected in many parts of their range.

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