Let's Celebrate Pet Birds!
T.J. Lafeber D.V.M.
NetPets®

An Engineering Marvel

 

10 FACTS and CARE: FEATHERS

An Engineering Marvel

The extraordinary gift of feathers has given birds a magic carpet which will sail virtually anywhere. This marvel of engineering design provides strong and flexible flight feathers that furnish the lift and thrust of flight whenever needed. With this flying ability, they have an effective monopoly on the sky-except for flying insects which are no competition for air space. Their freedom to fly where and whenever they desire grants them a free spirit unknown in other animals. Feeling secure in their ability to take quickly to the air, they are free to hunt and gather food adjacent to their natural enemies. No other animal makes its presence more conspicuous and with so much confidence as birds.

Soon after birth, birds are presented with expensive down-lined jackets that are carefully fitted to cover their entire bodies except for their feet and legs, and part of their faces. The down in these jackets is, likewise, guaranteed to keep the body warm in cold weather and is adjustable to keep the body comfortable in warm weather. This special coat has an outer covering of contour feathers that the designer has made beautiful as well as functional. When the wind blows, it serves as an excellent windbreaker; when it rains, the jacket is water proof. The thickness and strength of this coat protects the body thermally and mechanically. Besides all this, birds are given a magic carpet which is a marvel of engineering design. The flight feathers on the wings are strong and flexible, which give birds flight whenever they want it.

The key to water repellency of feathers is the feather structure and feather network, not the natural oil. The micro-structure of the wide flat part of feathers involves interlocking barbules that may number up to one million in a single feather. The zipper effect gives strength to the web, but also traps air, helping to make the feather water tight.

In contrast to mammals needing a dull body covering to camouflage them from their enemies, flight has allowed birds to develop magnificent color and complex designs in their plumage. Whether the feathers are viewed from a distance or are scrutinized for their ultra detail, they can be thoroughly enjoyed by bird watchers, students, children and adults. Through all of history, men have marveled at the splendor of feathers and have attempted to duplicate their beauty. It seems fitting that birds as rulers of the sky have brilliant feathers to match their position.

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