Aug 16
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Ever find a feather on the ground and wonder what bird dropped it and why?

Right now is prime feather-finding season. Birds are dropping old feathers as they replace them with a whole new set; a process called molting. Feathers can be found in your yard, fields, woods or anywhere birds are found.

I recently went camping with some extended family. A younger cousin and I love the outdoors and we have lots of fun investigating and discovering nature together.

We found a feather while on a hike that was too cool to pass up. So we picked it up, snapped a picture (above) and began the investigative questions.

? What does it look like – length (3 inches), shape (slightly curved), colors (black and white), color pattern (kind of mottled, kind of spotted)
? What part of the bird did it come from – wing (yes), body, tail
? Where did we find it – habitat (woods), state (Indiana), season (summer)

All these clues are important to help in the identification process to quickly narrow down the possible birds from which it fell.

Just using an iPhone app right there on the trail, we were able to quickly narrow down the options to a woodpecker. A good field guide book works well too.

We then did a more detailed search using a book called, “Bird Feathers” by Scott & McFarland. Also, there is a new on-line tool from the US Fish & Wildlife Service that is very helpful, The Feather Atlas.

USFWS Photo

We had a lot of fun investigating and then discovering the feather was from the wing of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Have you ever found a feather you wanted to ID? Which bird did it come from?

The “fine print” on possessing feathers:
We recommend taking pictures or making drawings of feathers then leave them where you found them. As is stated on The Feather Atlas home page, “The possession of feathers and other parts from [Migratory Bird Treaty Act]-protected birds without permission is prohibited.” Click The Feather Atlas link to learn more.

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