How to identify common feathers

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

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                                                                                         lllustrations by Felicity Rose Cole

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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.

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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.

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3. Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major

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

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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.

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5. Jay Garrulus glandarius

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

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6. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

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

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7. Woodcock Scolopax rusticola

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

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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.

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9. Magpie Pica pica

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

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10. Woodpigeon Columba palumbus

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

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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.

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12. Buzzard Buteo buteo

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