How to identify common feathers

Found a feather? Use this handy guide to identify which bird it belongs to.

Pheasant feather

                                                                                         lllustrations by Felicity Rose Cole

1. (above) Pheasant Phasianus colchicus                                  

Breast feather is orange with a black tip and brown base. Easy to ID when seen with other feathers on roadkill.



2. Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Secondary shows part of the yellow wing-bar, a white base and a white tip forming the wing’s white trailing edge.



3. Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major

Primaries and secondaries are black with large white spots to the edges. 



4. Green woodpecker Picus viridis

Secondary has a ladder pattern with moss green bars on one side of the shaft and white bars on the other.



5. Jay Garrulus glandarius

Secondary features unique sky-blue barring on one side of the shaft; this is also found on the primary coverts.



6. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

The male’s speculum (the bright patch in the wings of most dabbling ducks) is partly purple or blue-green.



7. Woodcock Scolopax rusticola

Secondary is strongly barred with a rufous ‘shark’s tooth’ pattern. Similar to pheasant, but bars are incomplete.



8. Red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa

Flank feather has a ginger tip above a white-bordered black band; it forms the ‘tiger stripes’ on the living bird.



9. Magpie Pica pica

Primary is long and narrow, with blue or green iridescence to the dark areas and variable amounts of white.



10. Woodpigeon Columba palumbus

Tail feather is long and rectangular with a broad, rounded end. Tip black, centre pale grey and base dark grey.



11. Tawny owl Strix aluco

Primary is reddish-brown or brown with dark bands; as in all owls, edges are softly fringed for silent flight.



12. Buzzard Buteo buteo

Primary is dark-ended with dark barring; base is largely pale with a grey-brown wash on the upper half.


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