Egrets regularly preen their feathers with their beaks to remove insects, leaves, twigs, dirt and parasites. They also preen to keep their feathers in good aerodynamic condition, and to waterproof them. This female, sitting on her nest, seemed to be basking in the late afternoon sun as she straightened her feathers. The long plumes growing from her back that look almost like the lace a bride might wear are called aigrettes. These special feathers appear during breeding season in the spring. In the late nineteenth century, aigrettes were prized for ladies’ hats which caused the egret to be hunted nearly to extinction.