feathers (material)

Through the research in books in the library we found that feathers have a variety of uses including:


-Insulation, to maintain a stable body heat

-Visual signals, in order to attract a mate

-Keeping birds dry through the process of preening, which is where a bird will coat its feathers with a waterproof oil found in a gland near the base of their tail.

-Enables flight, in fact, some birds can have up to 25,000 feathers but in order to stay air worthy the majority of species replace most of their plumage at least once a year. Due to feathers being made of Keratin (the same material found in our fingernails and animal claws) this makes them very durable yet flexible at the same time. Therefore, this allows forward movement and lift Due to their incredible flexibility feathers can also bend at almost a right angle.

Types of feathers and their uses

After looking at several facts about the properties of feathers I decided to explore the various types of feathers and their biological structure. I found that birds consist of three different types of feathers which are:

Down feathers: They are small, soft, fluffy and are found under the

Contour feathers: They have many non-interlocking arbs, lacking the barbules and hooklets seen in Contour and Flight feathers. This makes it possible for them to trap air in an insulating layer next to the skin, protecting the bird from heat and cold. Contour feathers Are those which cover most of the surface of the bird and provide a smooth appearance. Their main property is to protect the bird from sun, wind ,rain and injury. These feathers are often brightly coloured with different colour patterns. Contour feathers are divided into flight feathers and those that cover the body.

Flight feathers: Are the large feathers located at the wings and tail. Flight feathers of the wing are known as the Remiges and are separated into three groups. The main uses of Flight feathers are enabling flight and courtship.



Spiritual meaning of feathers within Tribal Culture

After looking at the practical aspects of feathers i decided to explore the symbolism behind feathers, particularly within tribal culture. This led me to look at the spiritual relationship between Native American tribes and feathers. Firstly, i researched traditional tribal clothing, especially headdresses which are made out of an array of different types of feathers, each with their own individual meanings and values. Within Native American culture feathers were seen as gifts from the sky, sea and trees. Furthermore, it was believed that the feather possesses supernatural powers that empowered the individual who wore them with the powerful characteristics and traits of the bird. The purpose and symbolic meaning of feathers varied from tribe to tribe.



Different types of feathers and their meanings

Eagle - strength, courage and prestige

Golden eagle and bald eagle - most sacred

Crow - skill and cunning

Falcon - speed

Owl - wisdom

Raven - creation and knowledge

© Kristina Armenovna Osipova, all rights reserved