What Are the Different Types of Bird Feathers?

Birds have flight, down, semiplume, filoplume, bristle and down feathers. The flight feathers are further divided into tail feathers, coverts and three types of wing feathers. Some birds also have powder down feathers.

The wing feathers, also called remiges, are comprised of primary, secondary and tertiary feathers. The primary remiges are closest to the wing tip, the tertiary are closest to the body and the secondary are between them. The covert feathers fill the border between the wing and tail feathers.

Down feathers, semiplumes and powder down feathers provide insulation. Semiplumes also maintain an aerodynamic form and are used in courtship displays. Powder down continuously grows and disintegrates at the tip, forming another layer of insulation.

Filoplumes and bristles are stiff feathers with few barbs. Filoplumes are found below the flight feathers and fill a sensory role, allowing the bird to adjust its flight feathers. Bristles are on the head and are sensory and protective in function.

The term "contour feather" is sometimes used to describe all the exterior feathers of a bird.