Feathers & Scales

Animals have all different types of coverings. Some are smooth, some are bumpy, some are soft and some are hard. We explored our furry friends in an earlier blog post – now let’s spend time getting to know more about feathered and scaly animals! Animals with feathers or scales can be found in faraway places or right in our backyard. Let’s see who we can find!

Fantastic Feathers

When you think of feathers, what comes to mind? Birds? Wings? All birds – and only birds– have feathers, but not all feathers are the same!

Super Skills

Feathers have many jobs! They help birds fly, keep birds warm when it’s cold out, block the sun when it’s hot and help birds stay dry when splashing around. Birds use feathers for camouflage, to protect their family, and to find mates. You can think of feathers as a bird’s superhero cape!

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How many feathers does a bird have?!

Could you imagine counting each of the hairs on your head? That would take a long time! Birds of different sizes have varying amounts of feathers. Hummingbirds have about 1,000 feathers and swans have close to 25,000!

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Silent as an Owl

Owls have feathers with jagged edges, which help them fly silently through the night. Air moves smoothly over the edges, instead of being blocked by the straight edge of a typical feather.

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You Are What You Eat

Flamingos are born with grayish-white feathers. Their diet is made of red and blue-green algae, crustaceans (like shrimp), and mollusks (like snails). These foods have chemicals that are red and orange in color, turning flamingo feathers pink as they grow up! You can find this same color in tomatoes, spinach, pumpkins, and carrots.

Super Scales

Scales are known for keeping animals safe and sound. They are hard, smooth, and sometimes shiny. Did you know that scales can be found on animals other than reptiles? They’re everywhere!


Even though other animals have scales, reptiles are the kings of scales! Every reptile has scales, from snakes to lizards to turtles. Much like feathers, scales come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. They even have different names. A turtle’s shell is made of larger, thicker scales called “scutes”.


Some mammals have scales?! They sure do! The armadillo and pangolin are mammals: they have fur and do not lay eggs. Fascinatingly, they are also covered in scales! These scales are especially for protection. Both armadillos and pangolins can roll up into a tight ball using their scales as armor.


Most fish are covered in scales. Fish scales have one very important job: coloration! They provide the bright colors of coral reef fish and the mirror reflection of smaller fish looking to escape predators. These scales are generally more flexible than those found on reptiles or mammals, but are still important.

Feathers and scales may be different from each other, but both are important to animal survival. From protection to attraction, feathers and scales are the animal kingdom’s greatest artwork! Which feathered or scaly animal is your favorite?

Written by Nicole Hodur