Yes, the feathers which handsomely cover our birds are indeed fabulous.  They are astounding for so many reasons.  They are made of keratin, however, an especially strong keratin.  Our fingernails are made of keratin, too.  Feather keratin is stronger that the keratin of horns or hooves.   Feathers insulate a bird from both warm and cold temperatures.  The warmest outdoor jacket you can buy is made of eider down, the feathers from a duck.  Some birds will line their nests with feathers.  Others will actually eat their feathers and then feed to their young.

If you removed all the feathers from any bird, they would weigh three times more than its skeleton.  Even the massive Harpy Eagle has a skeleton which weighs far less that its feathers.

All birds must preen.  This is a daily exercise which works to keep their feathers in tip top shape.  And some birds will preen  one another, too.  Barn Owls love to preen each other.  Mutual grooming and bonding is achieved.

Most birds have a gland to the back known as a “preening gland”.  This produces oil.  With great care, a bird will take this oily substance and carefully apply it to its feathers.  As a result, they have a healthy “overcoat” and can lead a wholesome life.  Some birds, however, lack a preening gland.  They depend on their beaks and bills to clean and nourish their important feather coverings.

Sadly, there are toucans and two Scarlet Macaws sitting in a marine environment on Harvest Caye.  Why sad?  Having no preening gland, they use their beaks and bills to preen and in the process, ingest salt.  Certified Avian Vets all agree that this is extremely detrimental to the health of these captive birds. It is unfortunate that this scientific fact was not addressed prior to their being transferred to that salt-air environment.  Wrong decisions can be changed.  The lives of these precious Belize natural resources, our National Bird, and the extremely rare Scarlet Macaw, should be minus bleak compromises to their health.

The protection of the natural resources in Belize is vital for our conservation profile, and for the well-being of our magnificent wildlife.

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