Birds are impressive creatures in many different ways, some of them less obvious and well known than others. Just about everyone will have enjoyed watching a bird fly gracefully through the sky with a freedom that humans can only imagine, for example.
While many appreciate and respect such sights, fewer think about what enables them. The feathers and down that birds are equipped with not only contribute to their unique abilities but can be directly useful to people, as well.
Feathers and Down are Natural Wonders With Unique Properties
For thousands of years, in fact, human beings have been collecting feathers and down from birds and putting them to use. While some of the characteristics that make these biological assets so valuable to birds are of little interest to people, others are very desirable indeed.
As a result, many types of commonly used items have incorporated feathers or down for centuries or longer. Some of the properties that most often make the feathers and down of birds appropriate to particular applications include:
- Insulation. Although the outer feathers of most birds are meant to lie relatively flat, the smaller, more delicate down feathers beneath them are fluffy by design. For very young birds that lack mature feathers, down provides life preserving insulation by trapping air within it. Older birds still benefit from the ability of down to keep temperatures stable, and that makes the material useful in many items people wear and use, as well.
- Softness. The same structural features that allow down to provide so much natural insulation also make it very soft. This makes down the filling of choice for the most comfortable pillows of all, as well as an appropriate ingredient in many other types of items. In addition to being soft, down has a remarkable ability to spring back into shape when the pressure put upon it diminishes.
Good Reasons for the Popularity of These Natural Materials
Thanks to properties like these and others, many items that people regularly own and depend upon the most are often still made using feathers or down. While there are sometimes artificial alternatives that can be used, instead, these rarely perform as well as the natural sources that inspired them.