This episode is about the wonder of feathers.  Salim Ali said that birds were “feathered bipeds.” This episode explores how feathers are marvellously adaptive to suit birds and species.  Our guest is Esha Munshi who co-founded the Feather Library, a digital project documenting feathers.

Esha read a quote from this book on feathers.

Featured image by David Clode/Unsplash

From the Feather Library website

A feather lying on the ground could have belonged to any number of species of birds. The type of feather, the colour, the pattern, the markings all tell a story on how to try and identify the owner. Our founding member (Esha Munshi) came up with an idea that if we could compare the feather to an existing database it would help narrow down the options and even help pinpoint the species of the bird. But no such database is in existence for Indian bird species.

In Gujarat alone we have more than 500 bird species. Trying to identify a bird based on just the feather seemed like a daunting task. So it was decided that we would try to record and document as many species as we can. It started with collecting feather samples from Road kills and photographing the feathers. All feathers were counted, measured and photographed. Species details were noted down along with the location.

Our co-founding member (Sherwin Everett) works at an avian hospital in Ahmedabad. The hospital receives around 1500-2000 birds per month, mostly being pigeons, kites and crows along with a fewer other common and some rare species. A number of the birds succumb to their injuries and stress, after which their bodies are discarded to the local corporation for disposal. This was a colossal pool of data just going to waste, literally.

We started collecting the feather samples from these birds to establish a basic database of bird species found in and around Ahmedabad. The centre also receives birds from various other parts of Gujarat, which has widened the horizon greatly. All birds were declared dead by the vets after which feathers were measured and documented. We wish to  create and curate a database of the various bird species found here in India.  So far we have recorded over 75 species, including a few migratory rarities.  We are making notes on the flight feathers, noting the number of Primaries, Secondaries, Tertials (Wing Feathers) and Rectrices (Tail Feathers) along with the basic details of the bird like overall length, bill length and width, leg lengths up to the digits, etc. We are also documenting one wing fully stretched and tail fanned in dorsal and ventral views. This provides us with valuable data as to the exact number of feathers, any changes in shape, any specialty, colour, pattern and size. The collected feathers have been arranged by type and settled into a plate for easy viewing and comparison.

This is the first website for documenting, identification and study of Indian Birds’ flight feathers in India and one of its kind in the World.

A website by the name of has been setup as the database for the documented feathers. It is open for all and with easy access to feather plates, data regarding the species, wingspan, number of feathers, various other measurements and location of the bird. This will be useful for ornithologists, Forest department staff,  researchers, seasoned bird watchers and even creating an interest in budding birders. The main aim is to have all of this data under one roof. Our long term goal is to expand and gradually cover all of India. 

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