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Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Different Kinds Of Feathers

By Caitlyn
Follow in the adventures of Flip, Rabbit and Caitlyn in the Fledgling Blog.

I’d like to tell you about the different types of feathers a bird has. First I want to ask you, “What comes to your mind when I say feathers?” Is it primary or secondary or wing feathers, or maybe even just flying? Well, there are so many more kinds of feathers than that. I did a lot of research, and I hope you enjoy reading about them and learn as much as I did!

Flight feathers are the long, stiff feathers on the wings or tail of a bird. Those on the wings are called remiges and those on the tail are called rectrices. Their job is to help the bird take off. Even flightless birds still have flight feathers. In the wild, when a bird molts its flight feathers, it can cause serious problems because it can stop the bird’s ability to fly. Different species have different strategies for coping with this. Some drop all their flight feathers at once and become flightless for a short period of time and some even extend the molt over a period of several years.

Pennaceous feathers are also known as contour feathers. This type of feather is present in most modern birds, and has been shown in some species of dinosaurs. Pennaceous feathers have a central shaft with vanes spreading to either side. These vanes are made up of a high number of flattened barbs that are connected to one another with barbules. The barbules are tiny strands that crisscross on the flattened sides of the barbs. This forms a kind of mesh, like a mini Velcro, which holds all the barbs together. Flight feathers (remember they are called remiges and rectrices) are specialized types of pennaceous feathers.

Semiplume are long stems, called rachis, with barbs on either side. The crest of a bird is made up of semiplume feathers.

Filoplumes are always set beside other feathers. They are simple, hair-like structures that grow in circles around the base of contour or down feathers. Filoplumes usually stand up like hairs and are made up of a thin rachis with a few short barbules at the tip. Filoplumes are generally smaller than semiplumes.

These are just a few of the many feathers that are on birds.  All together, there are over seven different kinds. Next month I tell you about the rest and how the different feathers help a bird.

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Different Kinds Of Feathers

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Reader Comments
great info
stephanie, no smithfield, RI
Posted: 1/31/2010 1:23:58 PM
Cool, thanks for the info
s, la, CA
Posted: 1/10/2010 6:36:33 AM
Bernie, Malden, MA
Posted: 1/6/2010 7:53:10 PM
Interesting article!
Cindy, S, TN
Posted: 1/5/2010 6:55:51 AM
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