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December 10, 2016
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Fascinating feathers

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s new feather website educates viewers on many interesting aspects of feathers. On this feather, it is easy to see the rachis (the stiff central shaft from which the barbs branch) and the calamus (the hollow barbless base of the rachis where muscles attach). Feathers are composed of the protein beta-keratin.

April 9, 2014

As if the Cornell Lab of Ornithology isn’t already fantastic enough, this leading authority on birds recently released a new in-depth website that explores many facets of feathers from scientific viewpoints.

Viewers can learn how feathers work in a section devoted to feather anatomy. In Feather Function, the various roles of feathers are explored, such as flight, display, camouflage, insulation and weatherproofing. Other sections illustrate how feathers develop and how they have evolved over time.
In associated materials, conservation concerns are addressed, such as the impacts of oil spills on birds and their feathers. (See

The interactive site features free downloads for teachers, a reference article, and a video library with more than 90 videos. Visit to learn more.

And for educators, the lab is offering a free webinar on April 15 at 8 p.m. about how to use its bird cams in lessons. The BirdSleuth team will share information about the birds, the cameras and the biology behind the webcam initiative. Visit to learn more.