flip & guess
  • spoonbill detail
  • swan detail
  • bird of paradise detail
  • parrot detail
  • wood-duck detail
  • owl detail
  • potoo detail
  • loon detail

What Feathers Do

array of icons - insulation, waterproofing, display, flight, camouflage

Each feather on a bird’s body is a finely tuned structure that serves an important role in the bird’s activities. Feathers help birds fly, but they also help them show off, blend in, stay warm, and keep dry. Some feathers have evolved as specialized airfoilsairfoilswing like structures that produce lift and drag as they move through the air for efficient flight. Others have developed into extreme ornamental forms that may even hinder mobility. Often we can readily tell how a feather functions, but sometimes the role of a feather is mysterious and we need a good scientific study to fill in the picture.

Flip the tiles to the left to explore photographs of some intriguing feathers. Guess their function to reveal the full story.