How do birds protect themselves from rain

Feathers - too beautiful to just fly with

They keep you warm and protect you from rain, let migrating birds glide effortlessly over thousands of kilometers - and serve as jewelry with which vain males impress their loved ones. Birds can really rely on their feathers at every opportunity.

Feathers aren't just for flying

Who is the prettiest in the whole country? I! If you watch a bird of paradise at the courtship, a thought immediately shoots through your head: You show-off! The male lifts a plume of feathers that is usually under the wings and spreads it out into a 60 centimeter fan. Long, fringed feathers emerge that shine golden and orange, as if a painter had dipped them in too much paint. “Ho - ho - ho - ho!” Shouts the male and struts around so that all females are guaranteed to notice.

Feathers aren't just for flying - they are amazingly versatile. Some birds use them as colorful ornaments with which they impress their loved ones, others as a brown invisibility cap that makes them invisible to enemies in the woods. Feathers let raindrops roll off, keep you cozy and warm even at sub-zero temperatures and protect the sensitive bird's skin from injuries.

The spring science is cleverly called: plumology

Dwarfs like hummingbirds have plumage made up of only around 1000 individual feathers. Swans, on the other hand, can easily carry up to 30,000 feathers on their bodies! Scientists have long since devoted their own research to lightweights. In the “plumology”, in German plumage, they investigate what distinguishes eagle feathers from hawk feathers. Or why a swift has hard, thin wings - while the plumage of owls is more like an airy pillow.

Plumologists often stick all the feathers of a bird in an orderly manner on a leaf so that they can immediately see which feather is in which part of the plumage. If you look at such a "plucking sheet", one thing is immediately noticeable: Although all feathers are made of keratin, the material that also keeps our hair in shape, hardly any of the others are the same!

There are different types of functions for springs

Every bird has big and small, tough and fluffy: a team of specialists for a wide variety of tasks. Bristle feathers, for example, are long and thin; they grow in the corners of birds' bills or eyes and are used for touching - like a cat's whiskers. Some birds have what are known as powder downs, which actually form a water-repellent powder that the animals use to dust their plumage.

Thread feathers, in turn, look like long hair; they grow at the foot of larger feathers and constantly "check" whether they are correctly positioned; for this task the threads are connected to nerve endings that lead into the skin. The long hand and arm wings, on the other hand, are stable and elastic because they are extremely stressed during flight. They have to withstand sharp changes of direction and up to 80 wing beats per second, in extreme cases even hurricane winds.

Birds invented the Velcro fastener

Common swifts, for example, pounce on their prey at speeds of up to 200 kilometers per hour. With this wind force, even house roofs could fly away! The feathers on the wings therefore have strong trunks, the "keels". "Feather branches" grow on them to the right and left, from which in turn small branches, the "rays", emerge. These are firmly connected to each other with tiny hooks, just like a Velcro fastener! Thanks to this ingenious construction, they form a closed, stable wing that is nevertheless very elastic. If the bird gets tangled in a thorn bush, for example, its feathers are not slashed: when a thorn passes through, the little feather boxes separate briefly and then attach themselves again.

People like to adorn themselves with strange feathers

If a feather does buckle, the moult helps the birds: they renew their entire plumage from time to time. In the case of large birds, one feather at a time is usually exchanged so that they can still fly at any time. Some others, for example certain species of ducks, also run around completely naked during the moult because they completely shed their old plumage after hatching. For a long time, other birds had to involuntarily drop their feathers: because humans were after the incredible colors and patterns of their dress, some bird species were almost extinct. Feather boas, shoes with hummingbird feathers. . .

Today feathers keep us cozy and warm in bed

100 years ago, ladies used to appear lavishly decorated with exotic plumage at parties. Indians infected themselves with eagle feathers. They believed that this would pass the bird's courage on to them. Fortunately, there are strict laws in place today for the trade in bird robes. Nevertheless, feathers are still in demand - especially to keep us warm. Duvets and jackets are often filled with goose or duck down, the tiny feathers that birds wear deep beneath their plumage.

Down is the birds' "underwear"

Down is amazing: it resembles fine, fairy flakes. But warm air particles stay between their hairs like in a cage. The protection against the cold works so well that penguins with their down “underwear” can even survive in the Antarctic at minus 50 degrees Celsius. And down has another advantage: it is really light as a feather. Each of the mini fluff weighs, believe it or not, a thousandth of a gram, a thick duvet made of goose down weighs just 1,000 grams. When you sleep in it, you can almost feel like a bird.

Have you taken a liking to feathers? On to the crafting tip!

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