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  • Strategy

Feather parts reattach: birds


Barbules of the feathers of the sacred dove / Ernest Russe.. / LicenseCC-by - Attribution

Feather filaments of birds connect to each other with interlocking hooks.

"A central shaft carries on either side a hundred or so filaments; each filament is similarly fringed with about a hundred smaller filaments or barbules. In downy feathers, this structure produces a soft, air-trapping fluffiness and, therefore, superb insulation. Flight feathers have an additional feature. Their barbules overlap those of neighbouring filaments and hook them onto one another so that they are united into a continuous vane. There are several hundred such hooks on a single barbule, a million or so in a single feather; and a bird the size of a swan has about twenty-five thousand feathers." (Attenborough 1979:173)

"Disarranged feathers are carefully repositioned. Those that have become bedraggled or have broken vanes are renovated by careful combing with the beak. As the filaments pass through the mandibles and are pressed together, the hooks on the barbules reengage like teeth of a zip-fastener to make a smooth and continuous surface again." (Attenborough 1979:179)
About the inspiring organism

Learn more at
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Connecting soft materials such as fabric, foam board, insulation, solar sails. Providing a connection that can be broken if needed to avoid permanent damage, such as in high winds, but can be reconnected afterwards.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction, manufacturing

Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behavior. London: BBC Books. 320 p.
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