Photo Essay: Feather Fancy
Quills, plumes, bristles, down: Birds have the best outerwear on earth. A look at its magnificent variety and function.
From Indonesia’s red bird of paradise
Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about feathers, but conservation biologist Thor Hanson does—and thinks we take these natural marvels for granted.
These vibrant contour feathers crown the head of China’s golden pheasant.
We may stuff feathers in our parkas and stick them in our hats, but physicists and engineers try to crack their secrets.
The blue-fronted Amazon parrot has a tail of different color (or three).
Hanson, the author of—what else?—Feathers, says, “They cross that imaginary but significant boundary we erect between the natural world and the human world.”
A peacock feather adapted for display.
It’s not waterproof or flight-friendly, but rather, it’s augmented to look as beautiful as possible.