Burien, Washington

Andy Waters, Pat Toth, Rhonda Ham

We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.

Burien, Washington

15858 First Avenue South #106
Burien, WA 98148

Phone: (206) 241-3201
Fax: (206) 241-3741
Email: Send Message

Store Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Located near Trader Joe's at the Five Corners shopping mall

Map This Location




Mewsings from Millie

Hello and welcome back to my musings!

So, what's the big deal about birds? What makes them unique? They have beaks, feathers, wings, lay eggs and walk on two legs all of which are important elements of a bird's anatomy, But which one of these things sets birds apart from all other living creatures?

Could it be their beaks? Nope. Turtles and  Duck-billed Platypuses have beaks. Wings are quite special but bats and some insects have wings, too. Humans walk on two legs so it can't be that and snakes, insects and fish all lay eggs.

So, what it is exactly that makes birds stand out? Feathers! Birds are the only living creatures that have feathers.

There is an amazing variety of feathers but all are made up of the same basic parts that have evolved to serve different functions.

The structure of a downy feather is loosely arranged. This helps to trap air close to a bird's body to help it stay warm.

Other feathers feature microscopic hooks that interlock to form a wind and waterproof barrier that allows birds to fly and stay dry.

Wing feathers are called remiges. They have a branched structure that interlocks like Velcro to create a uniform windproof surface that allows lift in flight. They are typically asymmetrical with a shorter leading edge for improved aerodynamics.

Most tail feathers, or retrices, are also branched and interlock to create a surface that helps birds to steer in flight.

Contour feathers are the feathers that cover a bird's body. The area that interlocks on these feathers is designed to help keep the bird dry. At the base of each feather is a downy section that traps heat.

There are also feathers hidden beneath other feathers on the bird's body that have a loose structure in order to help the bird stay warm. These feathers are called semiplumes.

Plumulaceous feathers, the aforementioned downy ones, spread out into a fluffy, heat-trapping mass.This allows some birds to stay warm even if the temperature is 40 degrees below zero!

Every feather on a bird's body serves an important role in the bird's activities. Feathers help birds fly, stay warm and keep dry but they also help them to show off and hide. Some feathers have become specialized to allow for more efficient flight and others have developed into such an extreme ornamental form that they may even impede mobility.

One bird exclusive of all others in terms of how it uses its feathers is the Club-winged Manakin of Colombia and Ecuador. This exceptional little bird uses its wings to sing! The male flips its wings up over his back and knocks them together at a rate of 107 times a second. Considering a typical hummingbird beats its wings on an average of 50 - 75 times per second, this is quite an accomplishment! This rapid knocking creates a vibration in the feather shaft that produces a single note that sounds like a high-pitched foghorn.

Sometimes the role of a feather is a mystery. Take, for instance, the tufts of feathers on the head of the Great Horned Owl. Although there are theories, nobody knows the particular purpose of these for sure. One more puzzling secret in the fascinating world of birds.

Until next time,

Millie, the Muse of Mews