The Ostrich Wing: why the ostrich can’t fly

The Ostrich (Struthio camelus) is a large African flightless bird.

Its wings are also large, with a wingspan of about two metres (6 feet and 7 inches).

Ostriches have many differences from flying birds.

Flying birds have external feathers with hooks that lock together. The Ostrich external feathers do not have tiny hooks that lock together. These hooklets are called barbules. They zip the vanes of individual feathers together to make the feather strong enough to hold the airfoil (the shape of the wing that makes it aerodynamic). Similar foils in water are called hydrofoils.

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Schmalkalden Moorhead Pigeon

The Schmalkalden Moorhead (Columba livia) is a breed of fancy pigeon. This is called selective breeding in order to develop specific characteristics. It is a domestic pigeon from Germany.

The Schmalkalden Moorhead has an arched brown head, dark eyes, and a long neck with ruffled neck feathers. The white feathers are bent forward and cover the neck so that the pigeon looks as if it has a mane.

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Why do some pigeons have feathered feet?

Most pigeons have scales on their feet (and not feathers).

However, some pigeons have a genetic variation (or two) that gives them feathers on their legs and feet (a lot of feathers or a little bit).

Foot feathering comes from variations in two genes: slipper and grouse. A bird that has the feathery versions of both slipper and grouse have an extreme form of foot feathering, called muff.

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Feathers: Are down and powder down the same?

Down feathers are fine fluffy feathers. Baby birds are covered in down feathers. In adult birds the down feathers are found underneath the exterior (outer) feathers.

Down feathers are used as padding or insulators to trap heat and keep the bird warm. That’s why baby birds are covered in down feathers. Down feathers are used in pillows and sleeping bags.

Powder down is called or pulviplumes. Pulvi means dust and plumes means feathers – so pulviplume means feather dust.

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External Covering: from skin and scales to fur and feathers

External covering is the outside appearance of an animal. Animals can have fur, feathers, hair, short hair, long hair, smooth hair, bristles, skin, thick skin, moist skin, dry skin, scales, waterproof scales, small scales, overlapping scales, spikes, hard shells, soft shells, smooth shells, rough shells, wool, or no covering at all.

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Iridescent scales, feathers and shells

Iridescence means shiny with many colours. Many animals have iridescent colours.

Iridescence is structural colour from refracted light (crystals), diffraction gratings (feathers or butterfly wings), thin film (oily surfaces), multiple layer interference (nacre in shells), or 3-D arrays of spheres (opals).

The word iridescence comes from iris, the Greek word for rainbow. An iridescent object has many tones of colour. Iridescence creates colour by splitting and reflecting light from different structures – which is why it is often called structural colour.

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