Why Do Birds Have Feathers?

Billions of years ago, birds were part of the reptile family and had scales covering their body. Over the ages, the scales evolved into the feathers that help birds fly and keep them warm.

Feathers come in different sizes and textures. An owl’s feathers are soft and long, so it can fly quietly but slowly. A hawk’s, however, are shorter, so it can fly more rapidly. Birds that live on or near water have oil covering their feathers, making them waterproof. All feathers fall out, a few at a time, once a year, and are replaced. This process is called molting.

The number of feathers varies greatly from bird to bird. The hummingbird has the fewest, with 940, while the whistling swan has the most, 25,216!