When you look at a bird, you never differentiate between feathers and wings. They are often termed synonymous in general conversation, but they are not.
Feathers are the small soft covering that covers a bird’s body. It is the same as fur. But it is important to understand that it is not called fur. They are called feathers.
Why? Because fur is entirely different.
When you look at a dog, it has fur, the hairy surface on the entire body.
Birds have these little feathers, which feel like cotton in your hand, and these are of different types. There is a difference. Birds have feathers, while animals have fur.
How Do Feathers Help Birds Survive?
If you look at a feather, it has a central hollow shaft with a vane on both sides. The lowest part of the feather is bare on the sides and is called quill.
The vane has small branches, which you can see. They are very fine, and numerous branches, which are called barbules, make a vane. This is the mechanism of a feather.
It works in several ways to help a bird survive.
These ways have been discussed here-
- Wings are not enough for a bird’s flight. The feathers help them in it.
- Feathers are natural insulators, which preserve the bird’s body heat and help them survive even in extreme environments. It keeps them warm. You can see birds fluffing their feathers. It is a way to trap air, and keep their body warm and regulate body temperature.
- For large birds like penguins, these feathers help them swim in water using flying motions while the feathers keep them warm.
- Birds who live in snowy areas have feathered feet. These feathers keep their feet warm when they take walks around.
- These feathers also keep the harsh sun rays at bay, save them from rain, and keep dry in water as they swim.
- Birds like ducks use their downy feathers, trap the air, and float easily in water without being cold.
- Feathers also help in hearing. Birds like owls use their feathery face to hunt prey and sense predators.
- Feathers are like hairs. They are the ones that bear the harsh environment, and thus, the old ones fall, and new feathers take their place. It is called moulting.
- Birds condition their feathers regularly. Their skin secretes oil, which birds massage around their feathers and keeps them healthy and shiny. This wax coating also helps to keep them dry as water slips off of them easily.
- Many birds use fallen bird feathers to construct nests. They are soft and work as insulators, making a perfect home for infants.
- Birds have different colored feathers. They use their feathers as camouflage and protect themselves from predators.
Do Feathers Help Birds Fly?
Yes. First, the wings that you see have lots of feathers attached. A bird’s body is covered with different types of feathers.
These feathers are situated on the bird’s tail and wings. These are what help a bird to fly. These are very strong feathers that make flight possible.
These cover the body and give color to a bird. They are shorter than flight feathers but larger than down feathers.
These are the softest kinds of feathers situated below the body feathers and are as small as hair. They are the ones that keep a bird’s body warm.
These different feathers make a bird’s body and aid it differently during flight.
What If Birds Do Not Have Body Feathers?
You read about the different functions of bird feathers above. So, if birds did not have feathers, it would be extremely difficult to survive.
First, they won’t be able to fly, as feathers are why they can fly. These small birds will not bear the extreme weather without their feathers and suffer.
In short, life is not possible for birds without their feathers.
Are There Any Birds That Do Not Have Feathers?
Some birds look like they don’t have any feathers, but every bird has feathers.
Some featherless birds around the globe have lost their feathers due to some disease, but that doesn’t mean that they are featherless birds.
They may be invisible or exist on their bodies like small hairs; birds always have some kind of feathers.
When chicks are born, they are featherless, but they grow up in time. So, if you go out to search for a bird without any feathers, you are going to be disappointed.
Do Penguins Have Feathers?
While they may look all shiny and smooth, their body is covered with tiny feathers. These are very small like hair, but tough and help them swim.
Can A Bird Fly Without Feathers?
No. Wings are not enough for a bird to take flight. The feathers attached to them and their hollow bones allow flight.
The surface area is made up of the feathers and not the wings.
Now you may wonder, if kiwis and emus have feathers, why can’t they fly?
It’s right. They have feathers, but they are not light.
A bird’s lightweight nature is crucial for flying, which Kiwis, Ostriches, and penguins lack. Thus, despite having feathers, they are flightless.
What Animals Have Feathers But Aren’t Birds?
For being a bird, a species must have a beak, feathers, and must lay eggs, and those who can fly. While there is no such animal, who possesses all such qualities, there is the bat.
It can fly because it has wings, but it does not have feathers. Also, it is a mammal. It does not lay eggs. At the same time, chickens and birds possess all these qualities.
Over the years, they have lost their flying ability, but they are birds because they fulfill the above criteria.
So, now you know the difference between fur, wings, and feathers. If it has feathers, it’s a bird, no matter how small and invisible the feathers are and whether it can fly or not.