Red Oak Farm
Copyright © 1998 -2012
All birds have feathers. There are two types of feathers, contour and down.
is a small, soft feather found beneath the outer feathers of ducks, geese and
Down has no central shaft.
The silky fibers of down grow outward from a common center.
Contour feathers are the large feathers that cover the wings, body and tail of birds. There is a strong, flexible center shaft. The lower part of the shaft is called the quill. The upper part of the shaft is called the rhachis. It supports the vane. The vane is the flat part of the feather. Most vanes are made up of tiny barbs or hooks which hold the vane together.
If you were to look at a cross section of a duck feather under a microscope, you would see that it has these tiny barbs which interlink and hold the vanes of the feather together, making it stiff and helping to keep it's shape. Emu feathers do not have these tiny barbs making them stiff. For this reason, emu feathers are much softer and flexible than most other bird feathers.
Another difference in emu feathers is that all emu feathers have a primary and secondary feather coming out of the same shaft.
Feathers on an emu range greatly in size and texture. The smallest emu feather may only be an inch long and very soft while the longest feathers are 18 inches or more and feel like straw.
They all have the double plume, or two feathers coming out of one shaft.
As you can see from the picture to the left, the quill of an emu feather is very tiny - you would never be able to use it to hold ink the way our ancestors did with goose or ostrich feathers. Even though we cannot use emu feathers to write with, we can use them for other things. Emu feathers are used in fishing lures, clothing accents, fans, wall hangings, flower arrangements, hats and many other things. Use your imagination, what could you do with an 18" emu feather? What about some feathers 6" long? Check out this page for crafty ideas with emu feathers.
Suggestion for teachers: Emu feathers are an inexpensive visual aid for your class! We sell feathers. The straw like tail feathers are quite impressive to children. Smaller feathers can be used in art projects such as the one on the Learn to Draw an Emu page or the feather crafts page.
If you have suggestions for other teachers as to uses for emu feathers, please let us know!