Tag Archives: feather science

Blue Feathers Are Not Always Blue

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These blue feathers are the iridescent flash from a Melanistic Mutant Pheasant rooster... but other blue feathers are not just blue.

These blue feathers are the iridescent flash from a Melanistic Mutant Pheasant rooster… but other blue feathers are not just blue.

When we started selling natural feathers for arts and crafts, we started to wonder what made blue feathers blue. Right about the time we realized that black feathers were not always black.

Feather color is not always simply color… it is often far more complicated than just a pigment. The color elements of the feathers are serving a purpose – for the bird, or in a grander plan of world conquest through brilliant feather display.

This makes using feathers for jewelry even more exciting, because they come to our art with a history of their own – from the bird.

Blue was a particular question regarding bird feathers, because it isn’t a color that comes to the feather from the bird’s diet. It can often be a refraction, scything off a feather that looks black, but flashes blue in direction sunlight with a certain graceful turn of wing.

But it can also be molecular. Richard Prum, of Yale University, studied cotinga feathers and discovered that the blue color was a result of red and yellow wavelengths of light canceling each other out as they bounced off the internal cellular structure of the feather.

It still looks blue to us, but I think it’s exceptionally cool that feathers are so cool, inside and out.

Visit our site for a huge selection of cruelty-free feathers from our own birds, and from like-minded small scale backyard farmers. Super cool!

Black Feathers Are Not Always Black

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Cruelty-Free Feathers at Natural Feathers

Black Feathers are mysteriously elusive… and symbolic!

I often get requests from feather artists for cruelty-free feathers that are truly black, not blue black, not purple black, but … just… black.

The first time I heard this, I thought “Sure, I have black feathers… no problem!” but then I pawed through my feather inventory and had a hard time finding feathers that were just… black.

Black feathers are often iridescent. Indescribably beautiful. Shimmering teals and greens and turquoise and cobalt and indigo and every kind of purple. But these feather artists didn’t want that. They just wanted black.

And those feathers usually come from the underneath or sides of  the bird, or are secondary feathers in wing or tail. The supporting cast of feathers, not the stars.

It turns out that birds can see into the ultraviolet, and the iridescent feathers send messages, usually love notes. The black feathers have more melanin granules, and are often stronger than lighter-colored feathers. This is why birds have black-edged feathers, the black resists wear and tear longer.

I’m still not sure why the artists want simple black, rather than spectacular black… because they are artists and they do not explain, they create! But the rest of my research indicated that black feathers are considered to be messages… maybe from angels, maybe from ancestors.

And a crow feather in your path is considered a warning. Of what, I don’t know, other than a warning not to pick up that crow feather because keeping crow feathers is illegal… warning from fish and game?

Anyway, black feathers are awesome, and harder to find than I thought they were!