Birds are endothermic vertebrates, and their whole bodies are covered with a wide range of hues feathers in various sizes and shapes.
Their colorful hues make them unique and distinguishable from the rest of other species. Bird wings and feathers appear like how the fingers of a human’s hand are fused together.
Feathers of birds remain attached to the surface area of wings till their length. Their feathers are not supported by any skin or muscle.
Without feathers, birds cannot take their flight as they provide enough space to wings for generating a lift to glide across the blue skies.
Birds’ feathers are homogenous to mammal hair, fulfilling various purposes and functions. That includes –
- allowing birds to fly,
- allows them to the court during reproductive seasons,
- provides warmth to incubate eggs, and
- helps to camouflage themselves from predators.
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Flying, preening, rubbing against trees or nearest feathers, regularly exposed to heat, and parasites like feather ice can cause damage to feathers and wear out during birds’ busy year.
Adult birds shed their old, worn out, and tattered feathers regularly in their breeding season and regrow them with new, warm and strong feathers.
Many bird species experience two molts per year and shed the same pair of feathers on both wings in a symmetrical manner for balance.
Even the feathers plucked by birds themselves can grow if the body is in good condition.
How birds lose their feathers?
Birds lose their feathers in two ways either through molting or plucking. Either way, the birds regrow their feathers, unless the feathers fall out of severe illnesses.
Molting is a natural process of shedding old feathers and regrowing them into healthy feathers in their place. Birds experience molting at least once a year and take several months to complete.
During molting, the birds will shed feathers from the head or wings first. When the bird loses flight feathers from the left side and they lose the same feather from the other side on the same day as well.
The Sprouting new feathers will be extremely delicate, full of building nutrients and blood vessels. With time, they develop into strong feathers.
During molting, birds never have bald areas, bird’s mature feathers will protect the wear-out feather pins and protect them from external damage.
Plucking is a huge problem among birds and is caused by a bad diet, boredom, changing environment, hormone fluctuations, parasite infections, dry skin, and stress.
Plucking usually starts with the bird’s chest and works its way around the entire body, leaving patches or bald in those areas.
Plucking can be easily identified, as there are species that aggressively start to pluck their own feathers when they have diseases or ailments.
Excessive plucking can damage the follicle and cause permanent baldness. Regrowing feathers after a plucking period happens very slowly. The bald areas will remain so permanently.
Will the fallen feathers ever grow back?
Birds take at least five weeks to molt and regrow their flight feathers, the growth back time depends on the bird’s diet, feather length, and surroundings. But the plucking may damage their blood vessels and pins and may prevent the feathers from growing back and make them look scary.
Feathers will grow from the follicles in the skin. A new feather will push out the old one from the skin and it is a gradual process.
Compared to pigmented feathers, white ones will wear out quickly. If birds have proper nutritious food and live in a healthy environment and are not any migrant species, then complete molting takes a considerable amount of time.
The time birds take to grow back their feathers can be shorter or longer depending on the health of the bird, environment, quality of the follicle, proper highly nutritious food, and supplements available.
The plucked feathers grow back at a speed depending on the number of feathers that were plucked and the number of times they were plucked.
If birds repeatedly peck and pluck out the same feathers after they start to grow back, it slows down the regenerating process and extends the time it takes for the regrowth of the feathers.
If the feathers are plucked out once, it takes at least 12 months to grow back to their original size, but the whole process depends on their food habits.
Related Read: Birds Body Parts: 21 Things And Facts You Should Know
Do birds have waterproof feathers?
Birds can keep their plumage dry, waxy, and water-repellent even in the cold or wettest conditions by preening their tail to the top.
They gather the oil on their beaks by rubbing against the preen gland or uropygial at the tail base and rubbing it over the feather’s length.
Preening oil provides a protective barrier that stops feathers from becoming waterlogged.
Birds also have a dusty powder that comes from a special feather known as “powder downs”. This powder acts as waterproof and improves the water-resistant quality of feathers.
Through preening, birds can maintain their feathers’ unique high complex structure and alignment with the neighboring feathers. This way, their flight will remain intact after a heavy shower.
Do birds’ feathers have feelings?
Feathers do not have the nerves to feel heat, warmth, or other sensations. Birds have stimulating nerves around the feathers attached to their body.
Depending on the stimulation of the nerves, birds adjust their feather’s alignment and posture. The rigid and strong contour feathers provide a protective shield to birds during the wind and rainy season.
Semiplume feathers and downy feathers help birds to trap pockets of air in their body to keep warm.
In other words, they help birds for their survival but do not have the ability to feel.
Do the birds require tail feathers for flying?
Though there are birds who can fly absolutely well without a tail, most of the species do use their tail for several purposes including flying.
The Tail feathers do serve several purposes like acting as a brake, gliding system, balancing medium, and a factor to show off their beauty.
Many adult birds try flying without requiring their tail feathers. If their tail feathers wear out or are plucked out by themselves, they will grow back more quickly than ordinary feathers.
Contour feathers of a bird are also known as wing feathers. The tail feathers help birds to glide in the sky. If the tail feathers are frayed or broken unnaturally, then they will not grow until their next molt process.
What will happen if birds do not have or have lesser body feathers?
Without the aid of feathers, birds cannot fly. Also, their skin gets exposed to heat by which they get vulnerable at times.
Birds have to face significant dangers from outside the world and predators, Feathers provide insulation to the birds and keep them warm and feel dried. If not for their feathers that are aerodynamically designed, they might have been waddling on the ground just like any other human or animal does.