Collecting feathers

Since May of this year, I’ve started collecting feathers I’ve found lying on the ground. I’ve been recording where and when I’ve found them in a notebook, as well as any birds in the area when I find the feathers. You may have noticed a lot of scraggly looking magpies at this time of year. This is because it’s molting season for both the adult and juvenile birds. Molting occurs in response to a mixture of hormonal changes brought about by seasonal changes. Most species of birds have a molt once a year, and usually at the same time of year depending on the species. Birds usually have their annual molt after less stressful times, such as after nesting season. I’m keeping a record of shed feathers to see if there are any variations in molt.
It’s also helping with my identification skills to keep the notebook. I’ve been using this incredible book to help me with feather IDing and working out what part of the bird the feathers came from.
For example, I found this large barred feather just outside the gates of Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens in Manchester. After consulting the book I discovered its previous owner was a Tawny Owl, and the feather was a Primary- a long flight feather on the outermost part of the wing.
Each wing feather is designated a number- for example Primary 1, Covert 3. It can take a while to learn which feather is which, which is why examining a museum specimen is so important. There’s a great diagram here which explains it clearly. For more detail, I suggest the book I’ve been using.

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