Samstag, 29. September 2012

How to differ: Feathers of owl from other bird of prey

Long-eared owl.
Owls and bird of prey both eat meat. The first one hunts by night, the other by daylight. But their feathers look similar, because the big feathers are often striped, too. Of course, other birds like pheasant or turkey are striped as well. But when you pick up a striped feather, how could you say if it is a feather of an owl or bird of prey (or even another bird)?
The mystery will be solved under the cut.

Actually it isn’t that hard. First you should buy a good book about bird of prey and owls. Compare the color of your feather with the color of the birds in the book. With this guidance you often find the correct bird. But pay attention, even an eagle owl could be black sometimes (rarely). Two little details will let you know if it’s an owl feather or not...

As an example I took a feather of a buzzard. Look at it, its surface is smooth and flat. Aside of the fluff by the quill, the edges are not frayed.

Common buzzard feather.
Smooth surface.
Now look at the feather of a barn owl. Its surface is totally different! A thin layer of “fluff” covers the surface. Even the edges are different, they look frayed. Some feathers, most of the outer feathers from the wing (primary feathers) are serrated.

Barn owl feather.
Fluffy surface.
Frayed edges.
Now why do have owls such special feathers, you ask? Owls hunt by night. Their prey, mostly mice, has a very good sense of hearing. The soft fluff and the serrated edges help to fly soundless. In comparison to the body the wings of an owl are very big, so the owl glides through the night slow and silent.

I hope, this little tutorial will help you.
Please note, in some countries it’s illegal to collect or pick up feathers of owls and bird of prey. So inform yourself on what you collect.

Just for fun: Macro photo of the buzzard feather :)

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