Bird feathers have fascinated mankind since the beginning of time.
The legend of Daedalus and Icarus is just one example of this.
Birds need many different types of feathers to enable them to fly, to
provide heat insulation, to protect them against moisture and to enhance
In addition, feathers decisively influence the appearance of birds. That
means that having many feathers is typical for bird species.
By closely examining the size, color, shape, structure and other special
characteristics of a feather, you can determine the origin of a large
feather (e.g. the wing or the tail) that you are trying to identify.
(Small feathers are only helpful in exceptional cases in precisely
identifying feathers). Additionally, in most cases, you can determine to
which bird group (e.g. songbirds, ducks, owls) a feather can be assigned
and, if it is characteristic enough, to which species and, under optimum
circumstances, to which plumage stage it belongs.
A comparative collection is an essential tool to help you identify
feathers. (You can probably find a useful collection in the Internet!). In
addition, you must be familiar with the individual feather types and their
position/relationship to each other.
Pluckings are a collection usually of large feathers that are
leftovers of a meal left behind by predators such as foxes, cats, birds of
prey or owls. Bird nests can also be a good source of information about
local bird populations. Many birds (especially songbirds such as the
long-tailed tit and the house sparrow) carry many feathers into
their nests that can often help you to identify unusual species.
The author of these website texts has a comparative collection that
includes many species, some of which are represented by a single feather
and others by a complete set of feathers. This collection comprises almost
exclusively indigenous (European) species. Exceptions to this include
species that are frequently held in captivity but sometimes escape to
I collected the majority of the feathers in the collection myself over
more than 30 years.
To prevent the feathers from just gathering dust in various cartons and
binders, I have gradually published the most important parts of the
collection on this website. You can use the species that I have published
to supplement the below-listed feather collections that you can find in
the Internet. These websites are intended to help feather
collectors/interested nature friends to identify feathers they have found.
A professionally managed feather collection can certainly fulfill
scientific requirements. To meet scientific requirements, you must
precisely document the details of the feathers you found (location and
date of finding, biometric dimensions and related circumstances) and
carefully store your feathers.
You can find information about feather identification literature and other
comparative collections under the corresponding tabs.
I must clearly draw your attention to the following: The German Federal
Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG (§10 Par. 2 No.10)) prohibits the
collection of animals that are protected by German nature conservation law
(including all European bird species), parts of such animals and products
produced therefrom as well as the ownership and commercial trading
therewith. Such animals may not be removed from their natural environment,
be imported or possessed (§42 BNatSchG). German nature conservation
authorities may approve exceptions to the above for scientific purposes
(§43 BNatSchG). I have received this kind of special permit for my feather
collection and related work.