About Feathers

The dictionary defines a feather as – “One of the horny structures forming the principal covering of the birds, consisting typically of a hard, tubular portion attached to the body and tapering into a thinner, stem-like portion bearing a series of slender, barbed processes that interlock to form a flat structure on each side.” But we all know that, in a way, feathers define birds! Some of the best ways to differentiate between species and even individuals is to study and understand their feathers.

Feathers are among the most beautiful and striking features of birds. Variations in feathers are unlimited, changing with each bird. But to make things easier to understand, science has some types and definitions readily described. 

A Feather

Shaft : The central spine of a feather
Vane : Usually the flat surfaces, which extend from the shaft
Calamus : Hollow lower portion of the feather shaft which usually does not have vanes on the sides
Rachis : Upper portion of the feather shaft which has vanes on the sides

Types of feathers

Flight feathers of a bird