In a way, I’ve dedicated my entire life to feathers. For what is birdwatching but watching feathers? These structurally simple but functionally incredible keratin structures have enabled birds to become the most mobile and widespread vertebrates on the planet. Feathers obviously play a pivotal role in flight, but are also used for thermoregulation, insulation, waterproofing, physical protection, swimming, buoyancy, sound production, sexual advertisement, camouflage, digestion, nest lining and many, many more aspects. A good ornithologist should also be a good plumologist (feather studier). As birders we consider the whole, and not just the parts that make up that whole in isolation, but I’ve always found that trying to identifying feathers provides one with
much deeper insight into ‘how birds are put together’. One of the first steps is learning to recognise the different feather types e.g. distinguishing primaries and secondaries, rectrices and remiges, and so on. The next step is working out to which species those feathers belong – a challenging but fun endeavor. So, I scratched around at home and scanned some feathers. I included a R5 coin (26 mm) to give an indication of scale . I’ve ranked the 12 questions from easy to hard. Each question is accompanied by two flip boxes – one with a clue, and one with the answer and explanation. BE CAREFUL NOT TO ACCIDENTALLY REVEAL THE ANSWERS! If you’re an experienced birder, I would skip the clue – don’t want to make things too easy now, do we? Good luck!