A closer look at the feathers of familiar birds

Feathers are inherently fascinating, they line our pillows and jackets, fill our literature, and inspire us with beauty and function. The Feather Atlas is a great resource for investigating the feathers of countless birds. Pepper Trail, the one behind the Feather Atlas, shared a few of these beautiful photos of feathers from familiar birds around the country.

Black-billed Magpie

The gorgeous iridescence on the tail feathers of magpies rivals that of peacocks, but is often difficult to see as the birds fly through the wide-open western landscapes that they call home.

Photos: Left, Black-billed Magpie by Tom Koerner/USFWS. Right, Black-billed Magpie Feathers Close Up by Pepper Trail/USFWS

European Starling

It’s known by all and despised by many: the European Starling. In winter, the starling’s new feathers are tipped with pale spots, which wear away by spring to reveal their full iridescence.

Photos: Left, European Starling. Right, European Starling Feathers by Pepper Trail/USFWS.

Golden Eagle

These are the golden hackle feathers from the neck of a Golden Eagle. They rise like flames as the bird falls from the sky like lightning.

Photos: Left, Golden Eagle by Jon Nelson. Right, Golden Eagle feathers by Pepper Trail

Northern Flicker

We don’t usually think of woodpeckers as having beautiful feathers, but the plumage of flickers deserves our attention and admiration. The heart-shaped spots on the breast are especially lovely.

Photos: Left, Northern Flicker by Tom Koerner. Right, Northern Flicker by Pepper Trail

American Kestrel

This is our smallest and most widespread falcon. They may not look as fierce as the lordly Peregrine, but if you were a grasshopper, they would be your worst nightmare!

Photos: Left, American Kestrel by Tom Koerner. Right, American Kestrel feathers by Pepper Trail.

Blue Jay

So familiar that its beauty is often overlooked, the Blue Jay is just one of several North American jays with blue feathers. But none have so many shades of blue — how many do you see?

Photos: Left, Blue Jay by Frank Miles. Right, blue jay feathers by Pepper Trail.

Dark-eyed Junco

Who doesn’t love juncos? Nobody, that’s who. The junco’s unmistakable white outer tail feathers flash at just about every winter bird feeder in America.

Photos: Left, Dark-eyed Junco by Mike Carlo/USFWS. Right, Dark-eyed Junco Tail by Pepper Trail.

So next time you see one of these birds, we hope they feel more familiar to you.

>>Check out more amazing feathers

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