We currently reside in an area that is uniquely comprised of coastal, marshland, and maritime forest preserves. This area is home to a huge variety of bird species— from shorebirds to songbirds to raptors— all whose feathers are illegal to collect.
Since we are constantly stumbling across feathers, I decided to photograph the ones we find and try to capture their beauty with watercolor. Thankfully there are no laws against sketching and painting feathers!
I began my attempt to watercolor these feathers with a lot of trepidation. I had never painted feathers before (I’ve never painted much of anything before!) and I felt overwhelmed by the feathers’ variety of colors, patterns, and structures. It took me more than a week to complete this spread, but now it is one of my favorites.
As a beginning birder and an avid nature sketcher, I was really curious what species left these feathers behind. In my research, I ran across several great resources.
Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species
This book is kind of heavy for a field guide, probably because it contains a ton of information on just about everything feather related, from identification tips and photos to flight and wear patterns. The only negative is that the book is pricey, especially for a paperback, but since we live and often travel outside of decent internet and cell service, I find it worth the price.
The Feather Atlas
The Feather Atlas is an online identification resource generously shared by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Fair warning: Read the site’s directions before diving in. The site is seriously packed with an overwhelming amount of bird feather scans, and it’s easy to get lost for a few hours (or days!) in here. They do have a handy feather identification tool that helps speed up the process.
All About Feathers
If you are interested in learning more about feather anatomy and the science of flight, this is a neat interactive by Cornell Lab's Bird Academy. Cornell also hosts a wealth of other videos and articles. If you just can't seem to identify the feather you've found, Cornell's Facebook page has always responded to my pleas for help regarding bird, egg, and feather identification.
When you are out searching for feathers, don’t forget to look up! Feathers are usually found on the ground, but its worth checking trees and bushes where birds live. They may leave a few feathers behind there, as well.