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>By this I assume you mean the big, long, flat feathers seen on the arms
>and tail of _Protarchaeopteryx_ and _Caudipteryx_? Of course, the other,
>downy or hairy, types would always be useful for insulation. As to the
>larger ones, my best guess would be that they were display structures.
This makes me wonder, if feathers evolved for insulation (and perhaps
display as a secondary function), would preening be necessary at all? A
grimy, shabby plumage with the flight feathers in disarray would certainly
be a cause of concern to any bird who wanted to fly. But to a ground-living
theropod, what's the big deal? If _Caudipteryx_ (for example) was worried
about personal hygiene, he could always take a bath.