Contour spring

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Plumage of the bird

The contour feathers (Latin Pennae conturae ) are a type of spring . The contour feathers form the majority of the externally visible plumage. The entirety of the contour feathers that serve to cover the body is referred to as small plumage , the wing feathers of the wing and control feathers of the tail as large plumage .


Functionally and according to their location, the contour springs are further subdivided into:

  • Body feathers ( Pennae conturae generales ): Cover feathers of the trunk
  • Wing feathers ( Remiges ): form the actual wing of the wing , on the hand ( hand swing ) and forearm ( arm swing )
  • Feathers ( rectrices ) tail feathers. They are numbered from the inside out. So the middle one is S1, the outermost S6, if there are six feathers on each side.
  • Cover feathers ( tectrices ): remaining feathers on wings and tail


Structure of a
contour feather 1 shaft, 2 coil, 3 flag (3b outer, 3a inner flag), 4 secondary feather, 5 upper umbilicus, 6 lower umbilicus, 7 feather branch, 8 arc beam, 9 hook beam

The contour feathers consist of a long and firm quill pen ( scapus ) and a feather flag ( vexillum ).

The quill is further subdivided into the feather shaft ( Rhachis ) and the quill ( Calamus ). There are two openings on the coil: an upper umbilicus ( superior umbilicus ) and a lower umbilicus ( inferior umbilicus ). In the case of the cover feathers, a secondary feather ( hypopenna ) can be found in many species above the upper navel .

The spring vane is divided into an outer vane ( vexillum externum ) and an inner vane ( vexillum internum ). The outer vane covers part of the adjacent tongue, while the inner vane is covered by the adjacent tongue. Both flags consist of the feather branches ( barbae or rami ) going out from the spring shaft to the front and back , from which again arc rays ( barbulae proximales ) and hook rays ( barbulae distales ) arise. There are fine hooks on the hook rays, which interlock with the arc rays of the neighboring spring branch and thus create the necessary rigidity and strength of the spring vane.


  • F.-V. Salomon (ed.): Textbook of poultry anatomy. Fischer-Verlag, Jena / Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-334-60403-9 .
  • Einhard Bezzel: bird feathers. Identify feathers of native species. BLV, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-405-16460-5 .