There is goopy gold in this fine feather image, displayed at 40% of viewport width.
April 2020 by Terry Verduin


They skipped on down to the local pet store,
and picked a bird that squawked with a roar.
“Ack! Ack!” It squawked and loudly shrieked,
puffed its feathers, snapped its beak.

Language is full of feathery expressions. In fine feather, a person may ruffle someone's feathers by trying to feather one's nest with plumage, or feather, collections.

Distinctive View?

New Light? Birds display and see plumage in patterns invisible to humans. Ultraviolet spectrum eye receptors help guide migration, select mates, avoid predators, hunt, feed chicks and detect rogue eggs laid in nests by other birds.

Light as a Feather? Feathers trap body heat, preventing outside loss. Birds may have inspired waterproof blankets for indoor and outdoor protection. Swimming like a duck in frigid water takes more than a blanket.

All the Frills? Males display plumes to lure females. They are not just for flight. They indicate avian sexes. They provide camouflage. They keep aquatic birds dry. They protect some birds from rain. Feathers come in types.

Feather Types

Down This plumage is small, soft, fluffy and full of air. Found at the base of the contour feathers, these structure help with flight. They also enable birds to puff up for safety, display, to stay warm or to keep dry.

Filoplume These hair-like structures have a few soft barbs near the tips. Located between the contour feathers, they may serve sensory or decorative functions. They stick out like hairs or antennas on end.

Semiplume These plumes are shorter than the contour feathers, but longer than down feathers. Located beneath the contour feathers, they have long shafts with downy tips to add insulation and improve aerodynamics.

Bristle These small, stiff structures are located around the eyes and mouths of some birds. They also may serve in sensory functions. They are distinguished by stiff, tapered spines with few or no barbs.

Feather Risks

Hit the Spot? Be careful when picking up feathers. Identification may be critical to staying out of jail. It is important to know the source. Some species may not be captured, hunted or pursued.

Birds of a Feather? Northern eider ducks are threatened. It is illegal to poach and sell their meat or eggs. It is not illegal to harvest feathers from nests after their chicks have hatched. These feathers are used in cozy quilts.

Walk to Remember? One plume may come with a fine. Birds are free to build or line nest-like structures with a rainbow of feathers. An intentional act to arrange some of them may find a guilty person doing hard time.

Ready for the Yottabyte? To ruffle someone's feathers also means to annoy or anger someone. It may be upsetting when Dolly explains it may be illegal to collect plumage. Laws exist in some places to protect declining species.

In Fine Feather

On the Fly Fix? Feathers are reflective of health. Damaged feathers cannot repair themselves. Molting is protective and necessary to flight and survival. Birds shed dead quills to make way for healthy yearly growth.

Blue Streak? Parrots manufacture plumage pigments. Called Psittacofulvins, this bacteria-resistant pigment gives parrots bright hues of red, green, orange, yellow and blue. It also may strengthen feathers.

On the Dot? Healthy birds keep their coats shiny. Through preening, they rearrange, smooth and clean their plumage with their beaks. They take sun or dust baths to spread and remove excess preen oil and prevent matting.

Attention Needed

Blech! Unhealthy, unclean, stressed or bored birds may mutilate or pluck feathers. Physical, nutritional or environmental problems may be behind these destructive behaviors. Self or co-plucking is prevalent in captive birds.

Scary Things? Feathers can be responsible for the spread of diseases. They can host a range of parasites, bacteria and viruses. Illness can spread from birds to owners upon contact. Bugs may get sick from biting diseased fowl.

Take Me to Your Leader? There is more to birds than plumage. Bird owners must spray, shower or bathe their pets. They also must trim their pets' beaks and nails or hire professionals to provide these services.

Cage Birds? Pet owners often select birds for ease of care. Abusive, cruel conditions are suffered by birds neglected in cages by unaware keepers. Their thousands of feathers extend maintenance needs far beyond food and water.

Feathery Expressions

Happy Daze? To be in fine feather is to be of good humor. Feathers are attractive to people. They have been widely used throughout the ages as fashion adornments and home accessories. Indigenous tribes still use them.

Sky High? My fine-feathered friend entered wide use when Sylvester used this funny description for Elmer Fudd in Bugs Bunny cartoons. Feathers have no sense of feeling. They are unique to birds and their ancestors.

Blue Yonder? A feather in one's cap describes something of pride. Feathers offer protection. They insulate pillows and comforters. This down is periodically and painfully plucked from live fowl raised for slaughter.

Starting with a Dream? To feather one's nest means to do something for personal gain. Feathers are ceremoniously used in Native American headdresses and masks. They reflect honor, strength, bravery and glory.

Feather Nightmare

Background? Terry Verduin retired as an attorney, but she continues to follow legal developments. She writes and administers informative and insightful Web content. Some books are under her V. R. Duin pen name.

Turning up the Heat? To line one's pockets with avian style and comfort is risky. The decimation and endangerment of birds for human pleasure caught the attention of political and ethical environmentalists.

Seeing Double? There are over a thousand species of protected migratory birds. These include many different species. There are about 10,000 different avian species in the world. Different locations protect different birds.

City Slickers? Experienced birders often cannot identify a feather's source. The FWS Forensics Laboratory created a Feather Atlas for officers and the public to use in the identification of feathers.

Art of the Huddle? Laws and treaties, like the U.S. Endangered Species Act, protect endangered species. It is not illegal to take feathers from fowl that does not migrate, such as bobwhites, pheasants, quails or turkeys.

Join the Cause

Organic Matter? Funds are authorized in the United States for the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act through 2022. It provides habitat protection for more than 380 avian species, including eagles.

Social Studies? Some birds are making comebacks. Fashions changed. Technology advanced to produce realistic, socially and environmentally acceptable fake feathers. These developments have reined in prosecution.

Under the Sun? Feathers of song birds, marsh birds and birds of prey are protected. Birds can participate in the affirmative action of constructing nests with any array of plumes. They do not fall within the letter of any law.

Carried Away

Great Heights? Know this Law. In 1918, the MBTA was signed. The FWS enforces MBTA Policies and Regulations. The MBTA has Conventions with Canada, Russia, Mexico and Japan to protect migrating species.

Hue Did It? Said law was intended to stop the decimation of birds for hat feathers. This 1918 act made it illegal to “pursue, hunt, take, capture or kill migratory birds”. Strict limits were placed on hunting seasons, if allowed.

Cut Above? Crop farmers could not shoot marauding crows. They were protected. It marked a time for some hunters to put decoys in storage. Ducks were on the list of protected species. Safe Early Bird deterrents evolved.

Tan Lines? The net expanded beyond illegal businesses dealings. An unintentional or accidental harmful act was punishable as a federal crime. Taking was interpreted as picking up a plume from one of these birds.

Bohemian Rhapsody? Killing was broadly interpreted to include the accidental death of birds. It punished owners of tar pits, plane propellers, oil tanks, windmills and windshields when birds were killed by flying into them.

Come Clean

Walking Tall? Current MBTA policy is less strict. Gone are $15,000 fines and imprisonment of up to six months for accidental killing or maiming. It remains illegal to intentionally move nests, steal eggs or take carcasses.

Trump This? U.S. President Trump discourages MBTA punishment for deaths from oil spills, construction activities and toxic chemicals. Governments and businesses need not take any protective measures.

Paint the Town Red? The following video shows the author's “grand chicks” dust bathing to condition their feathers. Some people take spa mud baths. The video offers a brief nature break, courtesy of her daughter. (23 seconds)