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Feathers used like whiskers
Just to throw another usage in to the pot.
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Birds may use their feathers for touch, using them to feel their
surroundings just as cats use their whiskers.
The revelation that feathers have this hitherto unknown function comes
from research on auklets, birds that sport prominent plumes on their
Auklets with bigger crests, that stick out further, bump into things less.
A wider analysis suggests that numerous birds, from parrots, penguins,
pheasants and hummingbirds, also use their feathers to feel their way.
Details of the discovery are published in the journal Animal Behaviour.
Many species of bird sport elegant long feathers, either crests, beards or
whiskers that adorn the head and face, or striking tail feathers.
Many of these feathers are thought to have a sexual function, being used
to advertise a bird's virility to potential mates.
But Dr Sampath Seneviratne of the University of British Columbia in
Vancouver, Canada and Professor Ian Jones of Memorial University in St
John's, Canada suspect they may also have a tactile function.