Posted by: atowhee | September 1, 2014


At the blunt point of the quill where this feather once hung from the turkey’s chest, there is but a quarter-inch of bare shaft. Then the barbs and barbules begin. This is the after-feather section which contains silky, flexible plumes. Where each plume is attached to the main shaft there is only a miniscule, thin, hairless mini-shaft, like the thinnest thread. Each plume is flexible but springs back into position. Beyond the connecting shaftlet each plume becomes expansive, fuzzy and almost like fur. This is insulation, waterproofing, comfortable down next to sensitive skin. The color is a matte medium brown. This afterfeather extends 2.75 inches along the shaft, almost exactly half of this feather’s whole 5.5-inch length.


Toward what was once the outer end from the plumes the coloring gets complex and fascinating. The next inch of so along the shaft the barbs and barbules are two-tone giving rise to arced, wavy lines of yellowish brown on a dark brown background.
The last 1.25 inches of this feather are both more subtle and more complex. An iridescence dominates. The background brown remains but in sunlight at some angles there is a blue-green sheen on the surface. A slight change of light of angle and a pale golden-green light appears. Even in dull indoor light you can see there are two soft-edged stripes running across the feather…just before you get to the grand finale.
For the ultimate 3-8ths of an inch on this feather there are only pale golden brown fingers made up of individual plumes not stuck together. Each ends in a tiny, wavering end, spaced apart for its neighbors by the tiniest margin.

P2130236 (1280x960)
At one time this feather formed part of the contour on a Wild Turkey’s chest. It is curved slightly to fit the breast form and also to match its fellow feathers.
Above: turkey in our garden. Below: the Ghost of Turkey Passed.
WT GHOST (1280x960)

Here are two illustrations from the great feather-brained work, BIRD FEATHERS by Scott and McFarland. Stackpole Books.
feather structure

feather structure2

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