The Feather Atlas

Something you should know about me: I love feathers.

Or perhaps more precisely, I love finding feathers. And I kind of have a knack for it. I consider them unexpected gifts, and I am always happy to discover one. For years, a mobile of twigs and found feathers has hung from the ceiling over my bed — I watch it sway in the room’s small currents every day.

Once I saw two ravens haranguing a barred owl in woods. The pair cornered the owl on a bare larch, and nipped or stressed it into dropping a handful of feathers from its perch. They caught on the branches, and after the birds flew away, I went to the tree and shook down the downy feathers.

Another time I saw a heron drop a feather in mid-flight, and ran to catch it as it fell in slow spirals.

Of course I knew exactly who had dropped those feathers, but sometimes I find new types that are harder to identify. So imagine my delight today, to discover that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a feather identification website — and it’s exceedingly cool.

Behold, the Feather Atlas

So far they’ve got over 350 North American birds in the database, but it’s an ongoing, expanding project.


Credit: USFWS

Technically, according the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, unless you possess the proper permit, you should take only photographs and leave whatever feathers you find where they lay. Honestly, I knew that was true for certain bird’s feathers, but not all of them… so… yeah.

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