Seven Types of Feathers
By Gail Cochrane
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
The miracle of birds lies in their ability to fly, and maybe we’re a little ho hum about that. But really, how amazing that birds soar – in pursuit of prey, across continents and oceans, and in stunning courtship displays. How do they do it?
With skeletons made up of hollow bones, birds are super light for their size. But mostly its because of feathers. Feathers are nothing short of astounding in their ability to send birds soaring and to protect them from the elements. Feathers provide camouflage, warmth, dryness, communication, and most incredibly, aerodynamic flight.
Although every feather is made up of the protein beta keratin, there are different types of feathers. Some have miniscule hooks that interlock, forming a barrier to wind and water. These feathers power flight and keep birds dry. Others, worn closer to the body, are downy. These very soft feathers trap air right next to the bird’s body, and keep them snug and warm.
Here are the seven types of feathers:
Wing feathers are long and stiff. Their interlocking structure provides lift in flight.
Tail feathers are used for steering. Most birds have six pairs of tail feathers arranged in a fan shape with the two central tail feathers attached to bone. These feathers also have an interlocking microstructure.
Contour feathers cover the bird’s body in an overlapping pattern like shingles on a roof. These are waterproof and interlocking at the ends, but downy close to the body.
Coverts are contour feathers that grow on wings, smoothing the area where the flight feathers are attached to bone, and contributing to aerodynamics.
Semiplumes grow underneath the other feathers and provide a fluffy layer of warmth and insulation close to the body of the bird.
Filoplumes are short sensory feathers that provide awareness of the position of contour feathers.
Bristle feathers are mostly found on the head, protecting the eyes and providing tactile sensation around the mouth.
It is the combination of these specialized feathers that gives birds the wondrous ability to leave solid ground and travel so gracefully near and far.
By: Carol Suits
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
Kids are Superheroes when they find ways to help nature.
- They might donate their toys to be reused by other kids.
- They might help pick up litter on the playground or in a park.
- They might save water by taking faster showers.
- They might check in their backyard to see if plants need watering or animals need food and shelter.
YOU can be a Superhero too!
In December, the Liberty Wildlife Superheroes will be visiting the Non-Eagle Feather Repository to learn about feathers.
Here are some examples of feathers they might see.
This is a bird’s wing showing many different types and sizes of feathers.
Videos about feathers
https://tinyurl.com/3w63bh5w Fur, Feathers, Scales or Skin?
https://tinyurl.com/muybcr2c How do birds use feathers?
https://tinyurl.com/mr46dyre Feathers and bird sounds!
The November Superhero Club News
Doris brought a Liberty Wildlife ambassador to visit the superheroes. She explained this red-tailed hawk’s eyesight is 8 times more powerful than humans. When flying, it can see a mouse on the ground from 100 feet in the air.
Humans can’t do that!
We can use scientific tools to help us see things better.
Superheroes were busy this month using magnifying glasses and binoculars.
Magnifying glasses help make things look bigger. Binoculars help make things look closer.
Using magnifying glasses, the Superheroes went on a scavenger hunt and found everything on their list. Well, almost everything! The hardest one was trying to find a flower, in November, right after it rained! Good job, everyone!
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/cornell-lab-feederwatch/ Watch live action at a bird feeder. Scroll down to see some videos of other days at the feeder and then scroll down further to see pictures of birds from that area of the country.
Visits to my backyard bird feeder
https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0900a20f24ea Name that bird!
https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3658ff83d5d6 Do you know this bird?
https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=09f82715a6cd How much does a feather weigh?
The 13 Owls of Arizona
By Claudia Kirscher
Liberty Wildlife Contributor
Even though not often seen, Arizona has 13 different types/species of owls. The largest owl is the Great-horned Owl and the smallest is the Elf Owl. They live in a variety of habitats, many of them in our urban areas.
A bird’s size can be a challenge to determine just looking at them. Most people think it is how tall the bird is standing. However, length is measured from tip of beak to tip of tail (with bird on back, head extended upward).
Here is a comparison of sizes (as a point of reference, a stick of butter weighs 4 oz, there are 16 oz in 1 lb):
Great-horned Owl – Length 18-25 inches, wing span 50-60 inches, weight 46.5-61 oz.
Spotted Owl – Length 16-19 inches, wing span 40-50 inches, weight 21-23 oz.
Barn Owl – Length 14-20 inches, wing span 43-47 inches, weight 15-17.5 oz.
Long-eared Owl – Length 13-16 inches, wing span 36-42 inches, weight 9-10 oz.
Short-eared Owl – Length 13-17 inches, wing span 38-44 inches, weight 11-13.5 oz.
Burrowing Owl – Length 9.5-11, wing span 20-24 inches, weight 5.4-5.7 oz.
Western Screech Owl – Length 7.5-11 inches, wing span 18-24 inches, weight 5.4-6.6 oz.
Northern Saw Whet Owl – Length 7-8.5 inches, wingspan 17-20 inches, weight 2.7-3.5 oz.
Whispered Screech Owl – Length 6.5-8 inches, wing span 16-20 inches, weight 3-3.3 oz.
Northern Pygmy Owl – Length 7-7.5 inches, wing span 14.5-16 inches, weight 2.2-2.6 oz.
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – Length 6.5-7 inches, wingspan 14.5-16 inches, weight 2.2-2.7 oz.
Flammulated Owl – Length 6-7 inches, wingspan 14-19 inches, weight 1.8-2.3 oz.
Elf Owl – Length 5.25-5.75 inches, wingspan 13.5-16.5, weight 1.5 oz.
During the month of December, Liberty Wildlife will bring a variety of owls to the Desert Botanical Garden’s Las Noches de las Luminarias. Check the Garden’s website for our schedule.
You can also come on down to the Liberty campus during public hours to meet our Education Ambassadors up close and personal!