Feather Facts

FEATHER FACTS

The familiar V-formation often seen in flying birds creates an up-swelling of air that helps provide lift and save energy expended by the flying birds. This additional lift is estimated to allow up to 71% greater flight distance than a bird flying solo could accomplish.

A banded North American chimney swift is estimated to have flown 1,350,000 miles during the short nine years of its life, including nine roundtrips from its summer home in the United States to its winter home in Peru, South America.

A whistling swan has more feathers than other birds, up to 25,000 feathers on each bird.

The ruby-throated hummingbird has to beat its wings more than 52 times a second to hover in front of a flower and eat.

In most birds, the bones weigh less than the feathers.

The drumming sound made by woodpeckers functions like a song does in other birds, to attract mates during the breeding season and to announce territorial boundaries.

Black skimmers not only are unique because the lower mandible (bill) is longer than the top one, but also because it is the only known avian species to have cat-like, vertical, slit-shaped pupils. This slit-shape pupil gives skimmers specific advantages for the way in which they hunt food by allowing better vision at night or during times of low light, and by protecting the eye from sun damage because it significantly reduces the amount of bright harsh sunlight reflected off the sand or water from entering the eye.

Cormorants dive and swim beneath the water to catch their fish.  The imperial cormorant has been officially documented diving to depths near 150 feet deep.

Pelicans are a common sight in the Tampa Bay area, with the eastern brown pelican being the species seen most often.���� The other species seen in Florida is the American white pelican that may spend the winter months here.  The white pelican is a much larger, heavier bodied bird than the brown pelican, often weighing 15 to 20 pounds, while the brown pelican typically weighs only 6 to 9 pounds.  There are eight living species of pelicans worldwide.

A Flamingo in Florida?  Although there are reports indicating an errant American flamingo from South America can accidently end up in the tip of southern Florida, what most people think is a flamingo is actually a roseate spoonbill! Both species are pink due to Canthaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment widely distributed in nature, found in their diet.   An increased intake of Canthaxanthin intensifies the pink color of the feathers. Canthaxanthin also is used by humans to increase the pink color of farm-raised trout flesh.

Blue jay feathers may seem as blue as blue can get, but technically they are a slight brown hue. The primary pigment in blue jay feathers is melanin; the bright blue hue is created when light hits the feathers and the cellular structure refracts and reflects the light back as blue.  Melanin also is present in human skin and hair causing shades of tan to brown.

The heron and egret species of the southeastern United States may be facing problems with overpopulation and habitat loss due to humans.  At one time the long, beautiful breeding plumes of these species were highly prized in the Milliner trade (hat makers), almost wiping these birds out in the state of Florida.  An interesting fact about the name egret is it is derived from the word “aigrette” meaning brush and appears to be directly linked to the bird’s plumage.