Did you know that birds are the only creatures with feathers in the animal kingdom, and even among them, only the male birds have the most beautiful and colorful feathers?
So when you see a peacock dancing with its tail spread out and its beautiful feathers glistening in the sun, you can rest assured that it is a peacock or the male gender and not a peahen!
How often do we forget to observe these tiny things in nature? When I went bird watching with a friend, she told me several new things about birds and their feathers.
Animals that have feathers:
I also learned that birds use their feathers not only for flight but for camouflage, protection, and insulation.
Sometimes they even shed their feathers and replace them with new ones. Here are some facts that I learned about animals that have feathers:
List of animals that have feathers
The pigeons you usually see in cities are greyish with touches of iridescent green and turquoise or purple feathers near their necks.
These shades are usually a part of their feathers, and you will see both in males and females, but in males, the colors are more pronounced.
Pigeons usually have different feathers, such as down feathers, hair feathers, fluff feathers, contour feathers, tail feathers, and wing feathers.
The down feathers are found in the newly hatched chicks, and these fall off as the chicks mature.
The prominent feathers in pigeons are the contour feathers, the wing feathers, and the tail feathers.
The feathers on the body of a pigeon are of varying sizes as this helps reduce friction and help the bird fly.
Owls are nocturnal birds known for their excellent hunting skills. They are also known for flying and swooping down with excellent precision.
They can do all of these with the help of the feathers on their wings and their body.
Owls primarily have five types of feathers: contour feathers covering their entire body, wings, tail, down feathers, semiplumes, bristles, and filoplumes.
Unlike many other birds, the owls retain their down feathers as these act as insulation, protecting the bird against the cold.
Furthermore, you will also find several species of owls with ‘ear tufts’ or special feathers near their ears.
These feathers also provide the birds with an added layer of protection.
Moreover, the owl’s feathers often have particular colors or patterns that ultimately help the birds blend in with their surroundings. In other words, the feathers offer the birds excellent camouflage.
The feathers of eagles often resemble that of vultures and other birds. However, the feathers of the bald-headed eagle are pretty distinctive.
When you observe the feathers of the common eagles, you will find that the feathers are usually brown, rust, or black.
In some rare cases, you will find some white or blue feathers in eagles. In bald-headed eagles, you will find distinctive white feathers on the neck of the birds.
Eagles have different types of feathers like rectrices, scapulars, and tertials.
The golden eagles are unique as they have a different plumage when they are juveniles and the color of their plumage change as they mature.
The feathers on the eagle’s body are arranged to make it easier for the birds to fly higher and stay airborne for an extended period.
You must have observed that chickens have different types of feathers.
Chicks or hatchlings tend to have downy yellow delicate feathers, and as they mature, they have the regular feathers that we associate with chickens.
The regular feathers in chickens are primarily used for protection, not for flight.
You will find that these feathers protect the birds from cold, heat, and even injuries.
However, most feathers in the chicken are broad, and quite hard to protect the bird from injuries.
Chicken feathers can be categorized into barring feathers with an alternative or transverse markings or two different colors.
The other categories of chicken feathers are frizzle feathers, laced feathers, mottled feathers, peppered feathers, or spangled feathers.
These categorizations are based on the coloring and pattern of the chicken’s feathers.
Penguins, like other birds, have feathers covering their bodies. It is a myth that penguins do not have feathers because they are flightless birds.
The feathers of penguins are shorter and more streamlined compared to other birds. This helps the penguins swim rather than fly.
The feathers on penguins are so small that people often mistake these to be down or even hair on the skin of the penguins. But in reality, these are tiny stiff feathers.
The streamlined nature of penguin feathers offers more insulation by trapping air and makes it easier for the birds to swim.
The feathers are also short and placed relatively close to one another.
The tight packing of the feathers makes it easier for the bird to keep the water away from the skin.
This helps keep the bird dry and provides the necessary insulation.
Emus are the second-largest species of birds and they are on our list of animals with long necks, however, even though they are flightless birds, they can run quite fast.
If you have ever seen an emu closely, you will find that the bird has different feathers covering its body.
Most of its body is covered with long brown feathers that almost give the bird a hair-like appearance.
The shorter feathers cover the long neck of the bird.
The unique feature of the feathers of an emu is that each feather has a loose and simple design.
This means that, unlike other birds that have one feather growing from a single follicle, a double shafted feather will grow from a single follicle in the case of an emu.
The long feather is also soft like hair and covers the more significant part of the emu’s body. This gives the emu’s feathers a downy-like appearance.
When I went bird watching with my friend, one of the birds I learned to identify from its feathers was the orange-breasted robin.
The feathers on the body of a robin are pretty distinctive.
A robin can be easily identified by the rust-colored feathers on its chest.
But these are not the only colored feathers that you will find on a robin. The tiny bird is quite colorful.
The bird also has a yellow bill, a blackhead, and white outlines around its eyes.
You will find that the male robin is more colorful than the bird’s female species. The female robin also has the same colored feathers; only the colors are less bright.
Hummingbirds are one of those animals that can hang upside down and can also fly backward, hence, their feathers are designed in such a manner that it supports this unusual movement.
If you have ever seen a hummingbird, the first thing that you will observe is the iridescent plumage.
The male hummingbird can be pretty colorful, and the different hues result from the different colors of their feathers.
As the bird is relatively small in size, it has only ten primary feathers and six to seven secondary feathers. In addition, it has only ten tail feathers.
The female hummingbird does not have brightly colored plumage and is usually brown or dull green.
The feathers are necessary to help the bird make a swift movement in and out of the flowers when looking for nectar.
Peacock feathers are easily distinguished from the feathers of other birds.
You must have seen images of peacocks with their tails fully spread and the apparent ‘eye’ markings on the individual feathers.
These are the tail feathers on a peacock and the individual tail feather has a central quill, plumule, flue, and the ‘eye.’
The bird also has separate wing feathers.
The iridescent peacock feathers are also seen on the neck of the bird, and it has a distinctive tuft on its head.
However, the peahen has wing feathers and tail feathers, but neither are these iridescent nor big and bright like the peacock.
Peacocks are the heaviest flying birds, and when startled, a peacock can fly through a certain distance to escape danger.
However, given its weight, a peacock cannot fly for long distances.
Cardinals have distinctive red feathers that you can quickly identify.
This bird has primary feathers, rectrices, and secondary feathers like other birds.
The feathers of cardinals are arranged on its body to make flight easier and add to the bird’s wingspan.
Cardinals are known to molt, and when they do so, they shed the older feathers, and new feathers grow in their place.
The new feathers do not have the bright red color, but as they mature, they get the bright red color that we associate with a cardinal.
Animals with feathers include pigeons, owls, eagles, chickens, penguins, emus, robins, hummingbirds, peacocks, cardinals, turkeys. Birds are the only animals that have feathers because when they fly, they need to stay light enough to move through the air while being able to take off efficiently and land smoothly.
Birds have feathers because it helps them to resist temperature changes while also keeping them warm. However, they would also use feathers to camouflage themselves from predators.