Friday, December 9, 2011

Too Many Parrot Feathers? Send them to the Feather Distribution Project

Are you one of those parrot lovers who saves your bird’s feathers? Are they now just gathering dust and you are not quite sure what to do with them? Or perhaps you have been struck by the holiday spirit and like the idea of giving a gift that would be very meaningful to someone else. I have the perfect solution for you: The Feather Distribution Project.

Awhile back I was very fortunate to hear Anthropologist Dr Jonathan Reyman lecture on a topic I found fascinating. He explained that feathers were an important part of the culture of native peoples who live in Pueblos of the southwest. As I recall he explained years ago he was doing some work in this area and was asked by the Pueblo Indians if he could help them acquire feathers. Although not connected to the parrot community, Dr Reyman took it upon himself to make a repository for parrot feathers that could be distributed to the people of the Pueblos.

I did not quite understand the impact of this until I had the opportunity to visit two Pueblos myself. It was explained that our group of travelers worked with parrots and could help with feather acquisitions. Although fiercely protective of their culture and ceremonies, we were given a very special presentation that explained the important role feathers play in their religious ceremonies. While the presentation was enlightening what was even more impactful was the deep emotion and gratitude coming from our hosts. We experienced this at both Pueblos we visited. A parrot feather in a vase may be nice for us, but to them it is a connection to the spiritual world. Learning this really affected me. From that moment forward I have saved every feather my parrots drop and sent them to the Feather Distribution Project.

It has been super easy. I have a large baggie that is always ready and waiting for feathers. Once the baggie is full, I label it with the species of birds. I then put everything in a mailing tube to protect the feathers and send them to:

Dr. Jonathan E. Reyman
Illinois State Museum Research & Collections Center
1011 East Ash Street
Springfield, IL 62703-3500

The feathers are not bought or sold. They are given to the Pueblo Indians who submit request forms. This can potentially help protect parrots from being used for feather commerce. In the past Pueblo Indians often had to resort to eBay to acquire feathers…and where those feathers come from and how acquired is often unknown.

The feathers can be dirty, damaged and just about any size. The feathers are cleaned and sterilized at the museum. Damaged feathers are fine because feathers are sometimes cut into elaborate designs. Please only send parrot feathers. Feathers from native North American birds cannot be legally distributed via this avenue.

So if you are not sure what to do with your parrot feathers, consider sending them to the Feather Distribution Project. I can guarantee the recipient of your feather gift will be extremely grateful.

Barbara Heidenreich
Good Bird Inc
Copyright 2011 Good Bird Inc


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you mentioned this again, Barbara. My local NAI contact passed away and I was needing another place to donate our bird's feathers.


Best in Flock said...

This is very cool. And thanks for specifying that there's use for damaged feathers too. I've been collecting the nicer molted feathers in a baggie and will make it a point to send them to this project.

Quick question: how important is it that they be separated by species? I have them all in one bag and can probably separate them out, but I might not get it 100% correct (some of the smaller feathers from my pionus and conure look similar).

Barbara Heidenreich said...

As I recall you dont have to seperate them out. They do have people who will do it at the museum. But I am sure it is appreciated when it is an option. The last batch I sent was mixed together. Although I did list the species included.

Barbara Heidenreich said...

I got this wonderful note from Dr Reyman after I sent my last batch of feathers.

"Thank you for another donation of feathers. With the winter solstice approaching requests for feathers have been rising, so these are most welcome. We have been especially low on Amazon feathers. The macaw and Amazon feathers will be sent to Ohkay Pueblo in New Mexico, just North of Sante Fe. They'll be used for solstice ceremonies and on into 2012. The cockatiel feathers will be sent, along with others to a Native American Church member in northwestern New Mexico to make a ceremonial fan."

There was even a picture of the type of fan enclosed. Cool!

Anonymous said...

Just went to send some feathers and the website says that the project has been shut down. :( Such a shame. Do you know anyone else who has a use for lots of healthy bird feathers?

Barbara Heidenreich said...

I do! The Zia Pueblo will take them directly. More info here

Unknown said...

Another Feather Distribution outfit is called "Feathers for Native Americans" and they gift all feathers to the 19 New Mexico pueblo a and the 12 Hopi Pueblo villages in Arizona. They do not buy or sell feathers. They gift them to the Pueblos at no charge or obligation to the Native Americans.
See them on FaceBook or their web site