Found Feathers project journal on iNaturalist: See what the iNaturalist feather identification community does and updates to the project.
Video playlist (embedded below): Videos on the process of feather identification, the mechanics of feather development and usage, and real-world applications of feather ID. Begins with an excellent video by the Koaw Nature YouTube channel that explains how to get started with feather identification and how to use the iNaturalist Found Feathers project (thanks for the shout-out at 14:35!).
General Feather Information
- All About Feathers (Cornell Lab of Ornithology): Interactive course on the basic structure and function of feathers.
- All About Bird Anatomy (Cornell Lab of Ornithology): Interactive tool to study bird anatomy. You can toggle the settings to focus on feathers. Turn on flashcard mode to test your knowledge!
- Plumology with Dr. Allison Shultz (Ologies Podcast)
- Feather Biology (Arizona State University)
- Bird Topography (Drexel University’s VIREO)
Reference Specimens/Online Feather & Bird Image Databases
- The Feather Atlas (US Fish and Wildlife Service): Based in North America. Illustrates flight feathers (primaries, secondaries, rectrices), with body and covert feathers rarely included. The Identify Feather Tool allows you to easily search by pattern, color, size, position, and/or type of bird.
- Featherbase: Based in Germany, but represents birds from around the world. Illustrates both flight and body feathers. Most comprehensive online feather database with over 1600 species.
- Slater Wing and Tail Image Collection: Focuses on North American birds, but other species are represented. Contains complete wings and tails, so it is a great resource for identifying covert feathers in addition to the main flight feathers.
- Vogelfedern: Based in Germany. Currently contains 530+ species. Use the Identification Guide to browse specimens based on traits such as color, shape, and size.
- Consortium of Small Vertebrate Collections: Contains images of study skins from all around the world (2300+ avian specimens with images). A page containing North and Central American birds can be found here.
- Species, Age and Sex Identification of Ducks Using Wing Plumage: digitized version of a FWS resource (official pdf available here). Discusses methodology of duck wing identification and contains reference images and descriptions. See appendix for a ID key.
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: Avian specimens (4000+ skins with images) can be searched here.
- EcoTarium museum of science and nature: Avian specimens (2200+ with images) can be searched here.
- Chicago Field Museum Zoological Collections: Avian specimens (2500+ with images) can be searched here.
- Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology: Contains 590+ avian skins with images.
- Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History: Avian specimens can be found using this search query, check “has media” to help narrow down photographed specimens (of which there are 10,900+ including skins, labels, and live birds).
- London Natural History Museum Images: Avian images (2100+ specimens and artworks) can be seen here.
- Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History: Avian records (1000+ specimens, many with photographs) can be searched here.
- Animal Diversity Web (U Michigan): Contains 150+ avian specimens with images, good close-ups of unique morphology.
- BioExplora (Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona)
- Denver Zoo Biofacts Collection: A nice reference for certain exotic species, but beware of misidentifications on many of the entries.
- Waking up Wild Bird Feather Identification Guide: Guide to North American bird feathers that currently contains over 110 species. Helpful to quickly scan a variety of species, but lacks measurements and feather placement labels.
- Michelklemann.nl: Based in the Netherlands, over 250 species.
- Ornithos: Based in Germany, 127 species.
- Federn: Based in Switzerland, over 250 species.
- Gefiederkunde: Based in Germany, over 200 species.
- Alula: Based in France, over 570 species.
- Featherlab.ru: Based in Russia, contains 190+ species from Russia and the surrounding area.
- Kythera Natural History Museum: Based in Greece, 35 entries.
- Federkunde: Based in Germany.
- Cuneo Birding: Based in Italy.
- Verein für Feldornithologie in Bayern: Based in Bavaria.
- Greifvogelhilfe: German raptor rehabilitation center, offers pictures of owl and hawk/falcon feathers.
- How to ID a Feather (The Infinite Spider)
- Identifying a Loose Bird Feather (Twin Cities Naturalist)
Identification Notes for Wildlife Law Enforcement(U.S. Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory)
- Identification Guide to Decorative Feathers of Pheasants, Chickens, Turkeys and Related Birds (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory)
- Upland Game Identification Guide (North Dakota Game and Fish Department)
Legality of Feather Collection
- Guide to Legal and Illegal Feathers in the USA (Featherfolio)
- Migratory Bird Treaty Act Protected Species (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
High-Quality Bird Photographs/Information
- All About Birds (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
- Audubon Bird Guide
- Macaulay Library (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
- GBWF: Galliformes (Game Birds) & Anseriformes (Water Fowl)
- FeatherSite: Excellent, extensive resource for domestic fowl.
- VIREO: Visual Resources for Ornithology
- USFWS National Digital Library
Birds in the Hand (Bird Banding/Ringing)
- Piranga: Learning module for bird banding that aids in the identification of species, age, and sex of birds of the Western Hemisphere.
- Birds of Costa Rica (Migration Research Foundation)
- McGill Bird Observatory
Interesting Further Reading
- The Multiple Miracles of Bird Feathers (Audubon)
- The Basics: Feather Molt (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
- Peterson Reference Guide to Molt in North American Birds
- How birds can change color without molting (David Sibley for BirdWatching Daily)
- Wings, above and below (Sibley Guides)
- Juvenal plumage of songbirds (Sibley Guides)
- Powder Down and the Black-crowned Night-Heron (Sibley Guides)
- Abnormal Coloration in Birds: Melanin Reduction (Sibley Guides)
- Schemochromes: The Physics of Structural Plumage Colors (The Guardian)
- Research article on genetic analysis of molted feathers
- Feathers for Flight (DFW Urban Wildlife)
- Research sheds light on how patterns form in bird feathers (Phys.org)
- What’s behind the color and pattern of bird feathers? (Phys.org)
- Hidden feather patterns tell the story of birds (Phys.org)
- Volunteer birder helps UCLA amass world’s largest feather collection
- Feather Map of Australia
3 thoughts on “Resources”
Hi Amanda, thank you for such an amazing list of resources! I just happened to hear the Plumology episode of the Ologies podcast https://www.alieward.com/ologies/plumology, and I think you might find it worthwhile for your resources page, as a quick overview for beginners.
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I’m glad to hear that you like the resources page I’ve put together! I hope it’ll come in handy should you ever have a feather to identify. Also, thank you for bringing up the Ologies podcast—I‘ll add a link to that episode right away.
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Thank you so much Amanda! Wow! These resources are amazing! I very much appreciate this! Thank you!
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