[Tweeters] feather ID

Hal Michael ucd880 at comcast.net
Sat Jun 25 14:53:35 PDT 2016

Might want to use UPS's Slater Museum's wing collection (I think at least some is online) for comparison

Hal Michael
Science Outreach Director, Sustainable Fisheries Foundation
Olympia WA
360-791-7702 (C)
ucd880 at comcast.net

----- Original Message -----

Thanks Valerie, for sharing this experience.

I certainly agree that separating these two species based on a feather is challenging, but here is why I believe it to be a GHOW feather:

Both GGOW and GHOW leading primaries are approximately 10” in length . ( http://www.fws.gov/lab/featheratlas/ ) I believe Valerie’s feather to be a leading primary based on the comb on the leading edge of the feather.

While somewhat similar in appearance, the shape, blotchiness (irregularness to the banding) and proportions are different for these two species. In the GGOW leading primary, about half the feather is oval in shape before it radically tapers down, rather than the more 2/3 length rectangular ovoid shape of the GHOW. In Valerie’s feather, only the first band nearest the base is “blotchy” (irregular?).{I think blotchy is a good descriptive word; nuts to Siri}. The GHOW feather I have in my personal collection from NE Ohio also exhibits a blotchy/irregular band nearest the base, with the rest similar to the GHOW in the Feather Atlas as well as Valerie’s. In a GGOW feather, I would expect all the bands to be more blotchy/irregular.

If Valerie wouldn’t mind taking a photo with a ruler (cm) next to the feather, the proportions might show up a bit more pronounced. (If you do take a photo, if you wouldn’t mind taping the tip down to straighten it out a bit more, as in the online photos.) The main feathering, the more rounded ovoid, of the GGOW is from 6-18 cm. On the GHOW, this more rectangular ovoid is from 6- to nearly 20 cm. The overall length of the GGOW leading primary is slightly less than 26 cm. The overall length of the GHOW leading primary is slightly longer than 26 cm. The overall wingspans of both species are similar (GGOW-140-142 cm, GHOW 134-143 cm). At the greatest width, the GHOW leading primary feather is slightly over 4 cm. The GGOW is nearly 6 cm, a noticeable difference which gives the GGOW a more rounded ovoid appearance to the feather. (Does this make sense?)

That all being said, the differences in size between the sexes make the above measurement comparisons somewhat suspect since we don’t know the sex of Valerie’s bird. The GHOW feather from the Feather Atlas is from a male from Oregon, and the GGOW feather a female also from Oregon. However, the proportions argument should hold true, as well as the “blotchiness” factor.


J. Acker

owler at sounddsl.com

Bainbridge Island, WA

From: Faye McAdams Hands [mailto:zest4parus at hotmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2016 1:26 PM
To: J. Acker <owler at sounddsl.com>; 'Valerie Anderson' <valhikes at gmail.com>; Tweeters at u.washington.edu
Subject: RE: [Tweeters] feather ID

Dear Jamie and Tweeters,

I don't know.....looking at my book ("Bird Feathers", Scott and McFarland) and checking those 2 awesome resources that you shared Jamie,
I can certainly see why Valerie would say Great Gray Owl, and I am leaning that way myself.
They are pretty similar, which makes sense.
When looking at the Great Gray's primaries, the banding looks more blotchy, not as crisp and distinct as on the Great Horned. And the pictures shared by Valerie seem to be more like that blotchiness. (apparently Siri says that's not a real word).
But I'm no expert.
Could you please give more detail as to why you say Great Horned vs. Great Gray?
Thanks for the learning opportunity,

Faye McAdams Hands
zest4parus at hotmail.com
Belfair, WA

"Life is simple - eat, sleep, bird."

From: owler at sounddsl.com
To: valhikes at gmail.com ; tweeters at u.washington.edu
Subject: RE: [Tweeters] feather ID
Date: Sat, 25 Jun 2016 12:50:38 -0700

Valerie & Tweeters,

Here is are two great resources for IDing feathers:



I believe what you found was the leading primary to the left wing of an adult Great Horned Owl.


J. Acker

owler at sounddsl.com

Bainbridge Island, WA

From: tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu [ mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu ] On Behalf Of Valerie Anderson
Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2016 12:20 PM
To: tweeters at u.washington.edu
Subject: [Tweeters] feather ID

Hi Tweets,

This week I was backpacking in the Teanaway region (Bean Creek/Stafford Creek/Navaho Pass), which is just NE of Cle Elum. I found a feather right in the middle of the trail, at about 4000 or 5000 feet elevation. Using my feather identification book, we concluded that it belongs to a Great Gray Owl....but I didn't know they visited that area. I have been unsuccessfully seeking out these owls for the past few years and it would be so ironic that I would stumble across one of their feathers when I wasn't even thinking about them!

Any insight to confirm or reject this identification? It is about 10" in length, and has all the characteristics of an owl feather. Sorry the photos are not the greatest. Here's the link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/64943435@N07/


Valerie Anderson

Olympia, WA

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