U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Forensics Laboratory


Main Page ABout SEARCH scans BROWSE scans Identify feather glossary faq CONTACT


Credit: USFWS


This website promotes feather identificaton, research, and appreciation by providing high-resolution scans of the flight feathers of North American birds. This is an ongoing project, and new species are added regularly.

READ THIS FIRST: "Feathers and the Law"

How to use the Feather Atlas

To search the image database by the common or scientific name of a bird species or group, click on "Search Scans." To browse by taxonomic group (for example, owls or woodpeckers), click on "Browse Scans," which will open a listing of all available scans, organized by taxonomic group (orders and families).

To identify an unknown feather, click on "Identify Feather." This will open a tool allowing you to classify your feather by color, pattern, and other optional characters, and then run a search for feathers with similar characteristics.

About the Scans

For each species, the Feather Atlas typically illustrates all the primaries (outer wing feathers; usually 10), 10-12 secondaries (inner wing feathers), and six rectrices (tail feathers) from an individual bird. The dorsal (upper) surfaces are shown.  Some scans from the early days of the Feather Atlas show a combination of primaries and secondaries (“wing scans”).  We are in process of re-scanning these to show separate images for primaries and secondaries. 

Bird tails are symmetrical in feather shape and pattern on the two halves of the tail. Feather Atlas tail feather scans include all the feathers from the right half of the tail, with the outermost always shown on the left.

To illustrate the range of variation in flight feathers, sexually dimorphic species are represented by scans of both male and female feathers. Flight feather variations among different age classes and color morphs are also illustrated if these occur. If the ventral surfaces of the feathers reveal distinct patterns not visible in the dorsal view, then a ventral scan is also provided.

A data table of total feather lengths and vane lengths is provided for each scan, beneath the image of the scanned feathers. This table also summarizes age, sex, and locality data for the specimen represented in the scan. For more information on data tables and on how the scans were created, see the "About" page. Definitions of feather terms, with illustrations can be found on the Glossary page.



U.S. Department of Interior Logo