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ABOUT THE FEATHER ATLAS PROJECT

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Credit: USFWS

Information on the Scans and Image Processing:

For remiges, the outer six primaries were included in all scans, if available, in order to illustrate the location of notches and emargination, which can be useful to species identification. The remaining scanned remiges include inner primaries, secondaries, and tertials, selected to show the complete range of wing feather patterns and sizes for each species.

For rectrices, the feathers comprising the right half of each tail were scanned, with the outermost rectrix on the left. The orientationis thus as if the head of the bird was out of sight below the bottom of the screen. Since most birds have 12 rectrices, the tail feather scans typically illustrate six feathers.

All scans were made on an Epson XL10000 scanner, at a high-resolution setting of 600 dots per inch (dpi), and at a 48 bit color depth. An 18% gray card and centimeter scale were included on all scans. Color calibration was performed, using Monaco calibration software. Original scans are archived at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in uncompressed (.tif) format, with no digital alteration.

The original scans were prepared as the images available on this website using Adobe Photoshop CS2. The scans were cropped, labeled, and placed on a template with a 2-cm grid and scale. In some cases, slight adjustments to the images were made in order to match the true appearance of the feathers as closely as possible. These adjustments typically involved brightness and contrast. These completed images were then saved as both high-resolution (300 dpi) Photoshop (.psd) files, and as lower-resolution (.jpg) files. The .jpg files are presented on this website.

Data on scanned feathers, including species, age, sex, collection date and locality, and measurements of feather length, were associated with each scan as metadata.

Metadata:

All feathers scanned for this project are in the collection of the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory (NFWFL). The following information was recorded as metadata for each scan, and is available in the Feather Scan Data table below.

Specimen Number: [ the accession number in the NFWFL Collection]
Common Name: [e.g., Red-tailed Hawk for Buteo jamaicensis]
Latin Name: [e.g., Buteo jamaicensis for Red-tailed Hawk]
Order: [e.g., Falconiformes for the birds of prey]
Family: [e.g., Accipitridae for hawks, eagles, and allies]
Feather Type: [e.g., remiges, rectrices, coverts, etc.]
Sex: [Male, Female, or Unknown]
Age: [Adult, Immature, or Unknown]
County:
State:
Country:
Institution: National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory

Feather Measurements:

The total length and vane length (in centimeters) of each feather are recorded in the data table below each scan. Vane lengths are provided to allow comparison of scanned feathers with feathers whose total length cannoth be determined (e.g., those still attached to the bird, or those whose quills have been trimmed).

Feather Numbering - Remiges:

In the table of feather measurements provided for each scan, every feather is identified by a number based on its placement in the scan

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Feather Numbering for Wings

These begin with Feather 1 on the left as shown above.

In addition, the six outer primaries are also denoted in the data table by their position on the wing. These outer primaries are included in all wing feather scans to illustrate their distinctive shapes. Ornithologists studying molt have devised a standard numbering system for flight feathers based on molt order. The outermost primary molts last, and so has the highest number. For most birds, with ten primaries, the outermost wing feather is Primary 10, or P10. The next is P9, and so forth.

The remaining scanned feathers (Feathers 7 - 12 above) vary in wing position from scan to scan, in order to best illustrate variation within each species' remiges. Therefore, these feathers are designated in the data table only by their location in the scan.

Feather Numbering - Rectrices:

For rectrices, the feathers comprising the right half of the tail were scanned, with the outermost rectrix on the left. Most birds have 12 tail feathers, and so most scans include 6 rectrices. In the table of feather measurements provided for each scan, every feather is identified by a number based on its placement in the scan.

Tail Feather Numbering

These begin with Feather 1 on the left, as shown above.

As is the case with wing feathers, there is a standard numbering system for tail feathers based on molt order, and these numbers are also given in the data table. Tail feathers molt from the center outwards. The first-molted feather for each half of the tail is numbered rectrix 1 (R1). This is the central tail feather, at the right side of the scan. Therefore, R1 equals Feather 6, R2 equals Feather 5, and so on (see above).

 

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