A Willet’s Morning Ritual

The rising sun’s slanting rays woke up this Willet in the rip-rap on the east side of the park.  Perched on a stone island at the water’s edge, it first applied its bill to the feathers on various parts of its body.  Preening gets rid of parasites that plague birds, much like fleas pester dogs.  Preening also applies oil to the feathers so that they shed water instead of wetting.  That important business done, the Willet set about getting breakfast.  It got lucky immediately, nabbing some rather big whitish-pinkish protein, probably about as big as the bird can handle.  After swallowing this morsel, the bird dipped its beak into the water twice.  I’ve seen the big egrets and herons do the same thing, and wonder what it’s about.  Possibly they are sucking in a bit of water to help the food slide down the gullet?  This done, the bird stalked on, looking for more.  At one point it dipped its entire upper body into the water, with only its tail showing, as if it were a Mallard or another dabbling duck.  I hadn’t seen a Willet go down that deep.

To learn more about Willets, check out this Wikipedia entry.


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