What Do ‘Blood Feathers’ or ‘Pin Feathers’ Look Like?

In 6 October 2008’s post: Turning Wild Birds into Fine Dining (Recipes), I mentioned the following: “You know you have an old goose when you see: pinfeathers, very large wing spurs and overall -rather coarse feathers.”



Photo of Blood Feathers, Pin Feathers Thanks to Sebastian Ritter


Unfortunately, I neglected to explain what these are; thank you to the readers who asked for a clarification. You keep me on my toes!

Pin Feathers

A pin feather is an under-developed feather; it occurs during the time ducklings and young fowl are growing feathers and when they moult. These pin feathers are sometimes referred to as “blood feathers,” because the feather shaft has a blood supply in it. Thus, if the pin feather is damaged, the fowl/duck/goose can really, really bleed. Pin feathers are more sensitive than regular feathers.

Once the feather is fully developed, the blood is only in the shaft’s base (tip). According to Wikipedia:  “The tip of the shaft encases the feather itself, in a waxy coating. As molting birds preen, they remove the waxy coating, and the feather unfurls.

When the blood has receded, the term “blood feather” is no longer synonymous with ‘pin feather'” — now it is just called a pin feather.

One way of explaining this is that duck taxidermists generally refuse to mount a duck caught early in the season (especially September), because they have too many pin feathers. It gives the bird/duck/goose an unkempt, scruffy appearance.  To hear taxidermists talk about this issue, go to:


Essentially, you don’t want fowl with lots of pin feathers because they are so very hard to remove before cooking. If you get one, the easiest way to handle this is by skinning the fowl. As previously stated in another article, skinning reduces moisture in the fowl. Why this is unfortunate is: The skin is what keeps the dry meat from drying out further.

Why are they ‘Wing Spursif Fowl Only Have One?

I also mentioned “wing spurs.”  Several types of ducks and especially geese – have a spur in the bend of the wing (like having a sharp claw or talon on the outside of your elbow), which can deal some real damage. Usually, the fowl with the “wing spurs” only have one. Go figure.

While discussing this issue with MDH, Richard reminded me that teal season (in this area) is only in September. So many hunters just ignore the caution against pin feathers and skin the teal.

Hopes this clarifies things.
This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com


  1. Very useful info. Thanks!…

  2. Thanks for the info!

  3. Seems might painful. Thanks!

  4. Very useful. Thanks!

  5. […] **There’s more info on pin feathers and wing spurs in this article:  ”What do Pin Feathers on a Duck Look Like?” […]

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