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Feather Collecting and Nature Photography

Updated on August 14, 2015
Virginia Allain profile image

Collecting has been a lifelong passion for Virginia and her collections range from ephemera to tins and Hall china.

Possessing Feathers Is Against the Law, So Here's a Different Way to Collect Feathers

Children are naturally curious and pick up interesting things they see. Perhaps collecting is a fairly basic human instinct. In my family everyone collects one or two things, so as a child my collecting behavior was channeled into feather collecting. Perhaps it was a way for my mother to steer me towards an interest in nature or maybe she was just glad I chose something that was free.

Every time I took a walk, I scanned the ground for new feathers. We lived in the country, so it wasn't long before I found a number of feathers from blue jays, cardinals, and even our flock of chickens. I carefully taped these into a notebook. Somewhere during one of the family moves, the notebook was lost.

(white feather picture by Virginia Allain)

I'm still fascinated by birds and their plumage, but now I collect feathers in a different way by capturing them with my camera. Here's my collection of feather photos and some background information about feather collecting.

I Love This Feather Photo That I Took in New Hampshire

brown and white feather
brown and white feather

What Bird Did This Feather Come From? - Check the Bird Feathers book

Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species
Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species

When you find a feather and photograph it, you wonder what bird it came from. This guide is an enormous help with that.

First it helps you categorize it by type of feather (5 kinds of wing feathers and two kinds of tail feathers). Then it helps with color photos to find the kind of bird that the feather came from.


In the Past, Bird Populations Were Decimated to Collect Feathers for Hats

A vintage hat with feather decorations
A vintage hat with feather decorations | Source

Possessing Feathers Is Now Regulated

Before 1900, many wild bird populations were severely reduced due to the demand for plumes for ladies hats. The styles of the late 1800s called for elaborate arrangements of feathers and ribbons on bonnets. The popularity of these resulted in the death of many beautiful birds.

Now the feathers you see on hats are from domestic birds and not from protected wild birds.

Take a Look at the Feathers on This Vintage Hat


Photos of Feathers - Blue Jays - Taken by Virginia Allain

blue jay feather
blue jay feather

Another Feather Photo Taken by Virginia Allain

Bird Egg Feather Nest - A fascinating book - available from Amazon

A Sampling of Feather Photos by Virginia Allain

White feather with brown accents
White feather with brown accents | Source
I like to use different backgrounds to display the feather for my photo. Here I've placed it on a good-sized rock.
I like to use different backgrounds to display the feather for my photo. Here I've placed it on a good-sized rock.
This large, brown and white feather seemed best displayed on textured bark.
This large, brown and white feather seemed best displayed on textured bark.
White and gray feather photographed on a background of sand.
White and gray feather photographed on a background of sand.

Feather Photos by Others

Photographs of Feathers - Available on Zazzle Products - Photos by Various Photographers


Photo from Zazzle: A Single Droplet by laureenr

What Did You Collect as a Child? - Leave a Note in the Comments Section Below

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    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: I think you are probably safe on domestic bird feathers like chickens and peacocks. It is wild birds that might be endangered like bald eagles that you can't have the feathers.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A peacock showed up at my mom's house one day. My sister searched the neighborhood asking if someone was missing a peacock. After not finding an owner she and my mom started feeding him. So years later, he still lives there. My sister has retrieved several of the feathers once the peacock drops them. And I used some of them to decorate a hat as a joke for an event I was attending. I had NO idea this was against the law! The government needs to make the public more aware of such things......ahahaahahaahahaha,,,,just kidding. As long as the bird is safe I think we need to repeal this law.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      @MiaMusement: Ah, I'm glad to meet another who appreciates feathers like I do.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I've always collected feathers on my walks, too, and I have quite a collection. I always feel especially blessed when I find a blue feather for some reason. I also have peacock feathers around my house in vases as some would have flowers. There's a book you might be interested in (I've not read it but did have it bookmarked)... "Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle." I remember feeling "less crazy" about feathers when I stumbled upon it. ;-)

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 

      6 years ago

      As as child, I did collect some feathers. Don't know where they went to, but have another very small collection now. In recent years, I've only "collected" them using photos, as you do. Very much enjoyed seeing the photos of feathers in this article.

    • attraction 42 profile image

      attraction 42 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful photos. :)

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      @athensfever: Not all feathers are protected, just some endangered birds.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Fascinating pictures!

      I didn't know that it is illegal to collect feathers in the US.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      @SheilaMilne: Sheila - I remember someone picking up a sea eagle roadkill in Australia and he was arrested for having it in his possession. Best to check your local laws especially for endangered birds.

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      I collected stamps as a child, because my father did and from there went on to postcards. As for feathers, I don't think it's illegal to possess them in the UK but selling them is. I'm not 100% certain but I've been enjoying the hunt to find out. :)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 years ago from Canada

      I love your first feather image it is amazing. I didn't collect feathers but my sister and I collected every distinct rock that we stumbled upon.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      Here's a message that someone kindly sent me on Facebook:

      "Hi Virginia,

      My name is Karyn, I live in Australia. I was doing some research on Birdwatching/Feather Collecting and how to document the finds. I wanted to find information on what to include in the log book. Interestingly, I was recommended by Google to look at your Squidoo site.

      I don't know how to comment on Squidoo so I looked you up here. I just wanted to say that I adore your pictures of the feathers. Not only are they visually impressive, the fact that you take a picture seems to me to be a respectful thing to do.

      I read your introduction and I actually felt a tug on my heartstrings when you said you'd lost your Feather Collection Book during a move. How sad.

      Best of luck with your future discoveries and thank you for sharing your delightful images with the world, and me.

      Best regards,

      Karyn (Bird Lover)"

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      7 years ago from California

      I love taking photos, and also wrote about Owl and Eagle Feathers, however I never thought to photograph them where they are found in nature. Very interesting and I liked your photos. Blessed by the Collecting Angel :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice way around the law.

    • dustytoes profile image


      7 years ago

      I love your feather photos. We had a turkey feather and didn't know what bird it came from until a neighbor told us. My son always collects them.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What a great idea for a lens. I love to collect feathers and use them for crafts. You have some very nice photos here. Love this!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      What a lovely idea to photograph feathers as a way to collect them. I enjoyed the lens.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      7 years ago from Iowa

      We used to keep free range geese as pets. One of my favorite birdwatching events was when the young barn swallows had learned how to fly, they'd swoop down pick up a goose feather, fly up, drop it and another would swoop in and catch. It passed between swallows dozens of times before hitting the ground. They play their game for hours. I love your idea of photographing feathers. I also have a fascination with them.


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