These are among the first great great egret chicks to hatch this year at the Audubon Society’s Smith Oaks Rookery in High Island, Texas. Many visitors have commented on how the nesting season seems to be advanced two to three weeks this year, perhaps due to the exceptionally warm winter. I am constantly amazed at how such frightful looking babies can turn into one of nature’s most graceful looking animals. Feathers are unique to birds. They have many different types which serve many different functions. Here you can see one of the first stages in the growth of feathers. The shafts have emerged from the bird’s skin, but the barbs and barbules have not yet completely unfurled. They give feathers their unique look and performance characteristics. See