[AS.] A stalk of horn, hollow at the lower end or quill and filled with pith, and fringed at the other end, forming part of a bird's wing or the covering of its body. Birds are the only animals that are clothed with feathers, and much of their beauty is due to the colors and markings of the feathers. Feathers grow from little sacs in the skin, and are horny and of much the same substance as the scales of reptiles. Soft downy feathers, which overlap one another, form the warm covering of the body. The large quill feathers of the tail and wings are useful for flying. On each side of the quill are barbs, which, cleaving closely to their neighbors by hooks or barbules, make up the web or vane. Lower barbs of a feather and downy feathers have no hooks on them. The tail feathers of the ostrich and other such birds also have no hooks. Birds always preen or trim their feathers with oil taken from an oil-gland at the end of the tail. This oil is most abundant in water-birds, and makes their feathers waterproof. Partridges and scratching birds have dingy feathers like the ground on which they live; pheasants and brilliantly-colored birds blend with the bright flowers and pretty fruits upon which they feed. The feathers of various birds form an important article of commerce. Feathers are useful as articles of trimming and ornament, and for the stuffing of beds and pillows. The quills of feathers were formerly made into pens, but the extensive manufacture of steel pens has supplied their place- Feathers for ornament are obtained from the ostrich, marabout, peacock, pheasant, bird of paradise, heron, osprey, and other birds.
FEATHERS. a, d shaft; b. aftershaft; c, barbs or web.