Bird-feather counting: tiny consequence when the feathers fly

A lot of people have invested days, months or many years counting feathers. Right here are interesting highlights from some of their reports.

In 1936 Alexander Wetmore, of the US Nationwide Museum in Washington, gathered all the published reports he could find about an individual or other counting how a lot of feathers had been on specific birds. “The operate of feather counting is tedious and exacting,” he explained, “and yields little end result relative to the labour involved.”

Among Wetmore’s gatherings from his peers: “Dr Jonathan Dwight discovered 3,235 feathers on a male Bobolink taken in spring. RC McGregor has recorded 1,899 feathers on a Savannah sparrow … and 6,544 on a glaucous winged Gull … Miss Phoebe Knappen has reported 11,903 feathers on an grownup female mallard … the bird getting one that had died from phosphorus poisoning.”

Wetmore proceeded to have a person he could count on do some do some new counting on his behalf: “The actual labour of counting was completed under my direct supervision by Marie Siebrecht (now Mrs James Montroy) who, employed as an assistant, worked carefully and conscientiously at a prolonged and somewhat tedious activity.”

Wetmore information how Siebrecht/Montroy manipulted the objects of curiosity: “The feathers were plucked a handful of at a time by signifies of fine tweezers and had been counted in lots of a single hundred, a check out mark becoming produced for every hundred. At any interruption in the perform the quantity counted was set down at as soon as to keep away from error … The feathers as counted had been placed in a glass beaker on which there was a paper cover held in area by a rubber band. By signifies of a modest hole cut in the paper leading it was attainable to confine the feathers and to ascertain the fat of the plumage.”

Wetmore kept information of where each bird had entered his locus of handle. Many came via a single collecting stage: “I am indebted to Miss Phoebe Knappen for a quantity of birds killed by striking the Washington Monument during fall migration.”

Wetland compiled a lengthy listing of the Siebrecht/Montroy feather counts for particular birds. A mourning dove had 2,635, a yellow-bellied sapsucker 2,242, an eastern hairy woodpecker 2,395, an eastern wood peewee one,495, a brown creeper 1,408, a migrant shrike 2,179, an oven bird 1,849, a red-eyed towhee two,235, and so on. The smallest bird, a ruby-throated hummingbird, had 940.

Other investigators published far more specialised reviews, often of a single bird.

In 1937 George Andrew Ammann reported counting 25,216 feathers on a swan in Michigan. In 1941 Arthur E Staebler reported counting 3,615 feathers in an English sparrow, also in Michigan. In 1952 Leonard W Wing – apparently his true identify – reported counting 4,297 feathers on a cowbird in Texas.

Those are but a number of of the a lot of who have exhibited this meticulously enduring type of pluck.

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