The Amazing Structure of Birds’ Feathers

By Truth Seeker Staff

feathersThe most important difference that distinguishes birds from other creatures is surely their ability to fly. Birds can fly thanks to their feathers, which in fact have a very special structure.

A bird’s feather is a light structure that has lift force and can easily regain its original shape. If we examine a bird’s feather under a microscope, we see a marvelous design. In the middle part of the feather is a hard central shaft having a vane of paired branches called barbs on either side. These barbs, whose lengths and softness vary, enable the bird to fly in the air.

As we examine in further detail, we encounter even more interesting structures. From each barb minute hairs called “barbules” project. Barbules cannot be seen with the naked eye. On these barbules are little hooks. The barbules are interlocked by these hooks like a zipper.

The hooks are clamped together like the two rows of a zipper. The barbules held together by hooks are so close to each other that even smoke cannot escape through them. If these hooks are somehow unlocked, it is enough for the bird to shake itself or to put its feathers in order with its beak, to make the feathers return to their previous state.

In order to survive, birds should always keep their feathers clean, neat and ready for use. For the care of their feathers, they use the oil sacs that are at the bottom of their tails. They take some oil with their beak, and then clean and polish their feathers. In swimming birds, this oil prevents water from reaching their skin when they are in the water or in the rain.

In addition, birds can prevent loss of body heat by ruffling their feathers in cold weather. In hot weather, on the other hand, they keep their body cool by smoothing their feathers.

Each group of feathers in a particular part of the body has particular functions. For example, the down feathers and the feathers that lie along the wings and tail have different structures. Large tail feathers are used for steering as well as for braking. As the wing feathers are spread wide while flying, the surface area is expanded and lift force increased. When the bird flaps its wing downwards, these feathers come closer and prevent air passing through. As the wings move up, the feathers open wide and permit air to pass through them. In order to maintain their ability to fly, birds molt their feathers at certain times of the year. Large torn or worn out feathers that do not function properly anymore are renewed quickly.

This detailed structure exists in the feathers of every bird. All of them have the features that enable birds to fly. One who reflects on what is explained here and uses his intellect will notice the design in birds and will understand that this design is Allah’s creation. Even thinking about this attribute of birds alone is enough to understand how mighty Allah is.

It is related in the Qur’an that believers reflect on the creation of Allah:

“The kingdom of the heavens and earth belongs to Allah. Allah has power over all things. In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are Signs for people with intelligence: those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth (and say): ‘Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Aal `Imran: 189-191)

A Note by the Editor:

Allah the Almighty says in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an what means,

“Say: ‘Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?’ Say: ‘Allah.’ Say: ‘So why have you taken protectors apart from Him who possess no power to help or harm themselves?’ Say: ‘Are the blind and seeing equal? Or are darkness and light the same? Or have they assigned partners to Allah Who create as He creates so that all creating seems the same to them?’ Say: ‘Allah is the Creator of everything. He is the One, the All-Conquering.’” (Al-Ra`d: 16)


“He [Allah] hath created the heavens without supports that ye can see and hath cast into the earth firm hills, so that it quake not with you; and He hath dispersed therein all kinds of beasts. And We send down water from the sky and We cause (plants) of every goodly kind to grow therein. This is the Creation of Allah. Now show me that which those (ye worship) beside Him have created. Nay, but the wrongdoers are in error manifest!” (Luqman 31: 10-11)


“We shall show them Our portents on the horizons and within themselves until it will be manifest unto them that it is the Truth. Doth not thy Lord suffice since He is Witness over all things? How! Are they still in doubt about the meeting with their Lord? Lo! Is not He surrounding all things?” (Fussilat 41: 53-54)


Taken with slight editorial modifications from Wonderful Creations by H. Y.