There is goopy gold in this fine feather image, displayed at 40% of viewport width.
April 2019 by V. R. Duin


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.

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.

Feathers with Vanes These contour and flight Feathers are at the surface. They streamline flight and offer some waterproofing. Their colors and patterns provide camouflage and facilitate species or sex identification.

Down Down plumage is small, soft and fluffy. 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 on end or antennas.

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.

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 be not be captured, hunted or pursued.

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.

In Fine Feather?

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.

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.

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.

On the Dot? Healthy birds keep their coats shiny. Through preening, they rearrange, smooth and clean their plumage with their beaks. As shown in the video below, they take dust baths to remove excess oil and prevent matting.

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 this service.

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

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.

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. The 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.

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 some species.

Feather One's Nest Nightmare?

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.

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.

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? Listed 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.

Ruffle Someone's Feathers?

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? The law was intended to stop the decimation of birds for hat feathers. The 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.

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.

Paint the town red? The following video shows V. R. Duin'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. (2 minutes)