Owl Feathers

About Owls

Imagine being able to move your head a complete 270 degrees. For years, this range of movement and other exceptional physical features and physiological adaptations of owls have supported them to endure and thrive in the wild.

Owls have adapted to almost every ecosystem on the earth. They are pretty specialized predators, having ears and eyes intended for hunting and fantastic feathers that allow them to fly almost quietly.

Silent flight gives Owls the ability to capture prey by stealth and allows them to use their hearing to locate a potential target. This adaptation is not present in some species that hunt during the daytime.

Owls hunt during the night in deserted areas such as run-down farms, cemeteries, and other open spaces. The diet of almost every owl consists primarily of rodents and other small creatures.

Rather than making nests, they get over the deserted nests of other birds. Barn owls often occupy structures such as belfries, barns, and abandoned buildings. They also like to nest in the crevices of walls, within hollow trees, and inside thick evergreen trees.

Human intrusion on owl regions has led to the drop of owl populations in the wild. Consequently, the future of several owls, including the famous barn owl, is in trouble.

5 Types of Owl Feathers

Contour Feathers

Contour feathers cover the body, tail (rectrices), and wing (remiges). Parts of the contour feathers nearest to the skin havelight barbules.

Down Feathers

Down feathers are fluffy and soft feathers that catch air and form a significant layer of insulation close to the bird’s body.


Semiplumes can be seen between down and contour feathers.


Bristles are tiny feathers with a thick shaft and barbs found on the base, or usually not. They grow most commonly nearby the base of the bill, surrounding the eyes, and as eyelashes.


Filoplumes are hairlike feathers that comprise an excellent shaft with some short barbs at the tip. They are generally covered by other feathers and may work as vibration and pressure receptors sense the location of other feathers to adjust them adequately.

About Owl Feathers

Many of the Owl’s feathers are uniquely designed, there are the crown feathers, ear-flap feathers, stiff facial disc feathers, and bristles around the bill. The bill and feet have Filoplumes that function slightly like feelers to support the Owl reaction to things they touch, e.g. prey.

The special adaptation of these bird feathers is the fimbriate (fringe-like) or comb-like, the front edge of the main wing feathers known as “fimbriae.” With an everyday bird in flight, air rushes on the wing’s surface, producing turbulence, and making a gushing noise.

With an Owl’s wing, the fimbriate or comb-like feather edge cuts down the turbulence into small portions called micro-turbulences. It completely muffles the noise of the air rushing over the wing surface and provides the bird to fly calmly.

Pattern and Color

An Owl’s magical color and pattern of feathers enable it to blend in with its environments, protecting it from possible danger. It is essential for the nightly owls, as they need to stay covered when roosting during the daytime.

When frightened, the bird will usually take up a concealing position, with compacted feathers, closed eyes, and raised ear tufts.

It is also pleasing to notice that although owls of the same classes look different, every individual bird within a species has somewhat non-identical markings.

Several Pygmy Owls have “fake eyes” on the back of the head. It is referred to as an occipital face and can puzzle possible predators.


The ear-tufts, also recognized as plumicorns, are display feathers and have nothing to do with hearing. It is used to show the state of mind, such as anger, fear, and happiness. They also help them to hide from predators.

Not all species of owls have ear-tufts. While not having true plumicorns, most Pygmy Owls can move their feathers over the eyes in an outwards direction, resembling tiny ear-tufts. It is mainly performed in response to a predator or when the bird is frightened.


All birds often groom and clean their feathers to eliminate parasites, dirt, and dust. Owls, like most of the birds, use their talons and beak to do preening.

The two outside talons on the bird’s feet are the “feather combs”. The excellent medial edge of these outside talons allows them to preen their heads.

Flight feather barbs possess small barbules that collectively lock the barbs, creating the feather an extensive single surface. These barbules frequently become unhooked in collisions or harsh flying conditions.

A bird will utilize its beak to reorganize the unhooked barbs and bring back the feather to peak condition.

A tiny gland known as the uropygial, found at the base of the tail, creates a light oily fluid. This uropygial is stimulated by the beak, which is then practiced to transport the fluid to the feathers to offer them a secure coating.


When the Owl hatches, it does not have flight feathers. However, it is covered with downy feathers that help them feel warm. This down is slowly replaced with feathers as the birds grow. Young bird plumage is similar to adults, but usually lighter and sometimes with various markings.

Adult owls acquire their color from mature feathers. Through the ordinary course of the bird’s life, these feathers undergo various damages caused by flexing, abrasion, and even collisions.

Like other species, Owls frequently replace their feathers in a method called molting. It generally occurs once a year, starting after the parent birds have produced a brood that has fledged and can manage themselves.

The process practices up to 3 months, through which feathers are shed and re-develop over the whole body in a natural pattern.

This molting pattern mainly allows some of the primary or secondary flying feathers to be shed at a time to reduce the influence of the molt on the Owl’s flying and hunting abilities.

Except for Barn Owls, the molting of flight feathers is from the inside out. Barn Owl flight feathers are replaced from the center of the wing out. Tail feathers also shed out some at a time, except in a few smaller species, who drop every tail feather at once.


Maximum owls have comparatively large, rounded wings. The wings are broad, with a vast surface area relative to the bird’s mass. It lets them fly effortlessly and buoyantly, without loss of energy and too much flapping.

They can glide smoothly and fly slowly for prolonged periods. Various species practice this slow flight to capture ground-dwelling prey from the air.


Is it illegal to have Owl feathers?

Having feathers and other parts like meat and eggs of native North American birds without a license is forbidden by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) signed by the United States and Canada in 1918. Making it prohibited to kill, possess, trap, trade, or harass migratory birds, and the protection includes their feathers, nests, and eggs.

Are Owl feathers good luck?

Owls have connections to old deities. Owl feathers signify intuition, magic, seeing in the dark, improving psychic awareness, and more. Owl feathers encourage us to connect with spirit, fly high, and stay focused.

Are Owls dangerous?

Owls of all classes have been recorded to charge people when defending their infants, partners, or territories. Often targets include innocent hikers and joggers. Usually, victims escape without damage, and deaths from owl attacks are extremely more minor.


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