MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: How do feathers grow?

Date: Fri Apr 3 10:17:03 1998
Posted By: Joseph Agro, SME from AT and T
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 888176151.Gb


There were a few different answers that I was able to come up with through some of my contacts... I have listed them in the order of complexity and what I think is probably correct.


Here's answer #1 and I think it is the closest thing to a proper answer: Check out ntz/groom.html

So it looks like the answers are:

When birds molt, do feathers grow back in the follicle where they came from?

Yes. The new feather bud pushes out the old feather.

If so, how do they keep about the same number of tail feathers all of the time?

Only a small number of feathers are molting at any one time.

How do feathers grow? Do they grow in length first then fan out? We keep seeing stick-like things coming out of our bird? Are those new feathers?

Yes. The feather "tip" develops first, then the rest of the feather grows.


The second answer I received was:

Feathers are like zippers in their construction. That's why when you rub the feather the wrong way, it looks all dilapidated. The bird straightens the individual parts of the feather with it's beak so that it closes the gaps and hinges itself (like the zipper) so that it stays together for flight. ta-da!!!

Birds are actually miniature flying Porcupines.... In truth, the feather as such should never lose it's quill-like quality, but because they don't have modern day conveniences like Prell shampoo when they drop by the birdbath, their quills get split ends, and continue to fray out until they become what we know now to be Feathers.

As for the Tail Feathers, a bird's tail is most important both for flight navigation and for balance while perching. (You'd need a tail like that too if all you had to stand on were a pair of coffee-stirrers) The number of actual tail feathers never stays constant, as they must be shed as well. there are at least two layers of feathers for the tail to help ensure a solid 'fan' for guiding flight. when a feather is lost, it won't seriously effect the flying porcupine's performance, except in the case of attempted barrel-rolls and stunt flying to avoid cats....

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