When you find a bird feather, it can be difficult to figure out what bird it came from. Traditional field guides are great for entire birds, but not so much for individual feathers. Thankfully, now there's a field guide to feathers themselves.
Bird Feathers, by S. David Scott and Casey McFarland, presents representative feathers from 397 North American birds. For each species, 6-28 feathers (average of 10-12) are laid out next to each other and photographed against a neutral background. Multiple primaries, secondaries, and tail feathers are included for most, along with a sampling of body feathers. A caption identifies the kind of feather and gives the length in both inches and centimeters.
The accounts also indicate what kind of wing type the bird has (as defined in the introduction) and whether the feathers shown came from a male, female, juvenile, or if this is unknown. Color range maps show permanent, summer, winter, and migration ranges.
A guide like this is obviously a great reference, but I have found it surprisingly interesting to simply flip through. You can see how some field marks are formed, like the Magnolia Warbler's under-tail pattern. I also learned a great deal from the 63-page introduction, which covers feather origins, types, how they contribute to flight, and flight feather identification.
As a reference, this book will be useful to anyone who spends significant time outdoors in the US and Canada. But for birders, itís even more valuable for the insight it provides into birdsí lives, form, and appearance.
For more details and sample pages, see my full review of Bird Feathers.