Great Blue Heron trying to remove the ice from its breast feathersGreat Blue Heron trying to remove the ice from its breast feathers

In a few posts recently I have mentioned that winter can be hard on the birds in Utah because of very low temperatures and heavy snow. Ice can be a problem for some birds too mainly because when everything is iced over some birds can’t get to their preferred food, for instance American Coots feed on vegetation below the surface and when they can’t get to the food any more they have to leave or die.

But ice can pose other problems too. It might look like this Great Blue Heron is hacking up some type of fluid seen in between and to the left of its bill but that is actually a hunk of ice attached to the heron’s breast feathers. The heron may have spent the night in the water to avoid predators and the ice formed on the breast feathers as it scrunched down to maintain body heat.

That ice? It probably weighs as much as the heron.

Great Blue Heron on ice with iceGreat Blue Heron on ice with ice

The Great Blue Heron was resting on a shelf of ice when I photographed it and the ice is shown dangling in front of the lower section of the breast here. The heron later was disturbed (not by me) and took flight with that large chunk of ice still hanging from its breast feathers and I saw it struggle to become airborne.

Winter is hard on the birds of Utah.