by stefani greenwood

I am a huge non-goal oriented, inconsistent collector of nature’s ephemera – collecting for instance, the feather.  The feather is the most complex organ system that protects the body (integumentary) found in vertebrates and is beautiful evidence of the amazing thing called evolution (check out the Sinornithosaurus). Basically put, every bird has feathers and anything that has feathers is a bird.

Feathers develop from tiny projections of tissue (papillae) embedded in follicles and nourished by blood vessels in the dermis. When the feather is full grown, the blood supply is discontinued and the central shaft becomes hollow.  Feathers are perfect for trapping heat and keep birds insulated at the average temperature of 104 F.  They are also used for flight and science tells us that that feathers evolved from reptilian scales (still evident on their legs and feet) and up up and away this once land dwelling creature went and goes.  Color is either from pigments (melanins, carotenoids, porphyrines) or from light refraction caused by the structure of the feather. Color is very important when it comes to feathers because it can be a cue for sexual display, signals and characteristics, as well as being used for camouflage.  One more cool thing is that feathers aren’t naturally waterproof and only become waterproof after wax from the preen gland by the back of a birds tail has been applied.

The feather is an ancient charm for good luck and represents the journey of the soul to the other realm.  Go forth and find your own lucky plumage.

collection of feathers / kate mccgwire / nico