Huge feather found at Nedd

November 2nd 2020

Huge feather found at Nedd

Phil MacPherson of Nedd recently showed me a huge feather he had found earlier in the year (photo 1).  He had come across it on 6th May 2020 at the edge of a former cultivation area in woodland north of the village (NC1332).  It was 46cm (18in) long and dark brown in colour, darkening more towards the tip, but with no emarginations.

There is an excellent book (Brown et al., 1987; photo 2) for identifying birds by their tracks and trails, nests and roosts, feeding and behavioural signs, pellets and droppings, feathers and skulls.  Chapter 8, on Feathers, has a very useful introductory section and over 40 pages of illustrations of individual feathers, with detailed notes and moult cycles on the opposite pages.

From this book (photos 3-4), and its precise shape and size, I was able to identify the feather as the third primary from the right wing of an adult white-tailed eagle.  This species is now seen frequently on the north coast of Assynt and elsewhere in the parish.  Feathers are moulted throughout the summer, from April to October, but there is, no doubt, a strict sequence in the moult of flight feathers, to avoid loss of power and agility.

Ian M. Evans (words and photos)

Reference

Brown, R., Ferguson, J., Lawrence, M. and Lees, D., 1987.

Tracks & Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe. An Identification Guide.  London: Christopher Helm

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