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

Recipe: Turning Wild Birds into Fine Dining


Wild Birds are Fine Dining, at its Best!


The time you spend marinating wild birds will be worth the effort when you get to the dinner table.  Fish-eating ducks call for a marinade of vinegar, wine or buttermilk. Older duck or goose will be more flavorful after a bath in (1/2 tsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. vinegar per quart of) cold water.  Leave the ducks in this marinade 4 – 12 hours in the refrigerator – to improve tenderness and flavor.

General Wild Duck Info

Duck meat is best cooked rare.  The meat is dark, dense and dry. That’s why you see so many recipes calling for cooking duck in a covered roaster with several slices of bacon spread over the duck body. Another option is to use a slow cooker with your duck(s). All of these strategies help retain moisture in an otherwise dry meat. Lots of folks are surprised to find that wild duck can be barbecued. However, the most common way to cook wild ducks is to dredge them through flour and spices, fry the outside and smother in gravy and bake for 3 or 4 hours.

Wild Goose

The great thing about wild goose is that there is so little waste with this bird. Young bird is absolutely delicious while older birds tend to be tough and poor prospects for tenderizing with moist heat. Therefore, next time you go hunting, make sure you get a young one!   😉  You know you have an old goose when you see: pinfeathers, very large wing spurs and overall -rather coarse feathers.**

Stuff the goose with your choice: sliced tart apples OR breaded stuffing with tart apples and onions. I’ll end this posting with one of my favorite duck recipes. Next time I add recipes, I’ll include: Chesapeake Barbecued Duck and Roasted Wild Duck.   But today’s recipe is:


Holly Gravy Duck

1 cup quality oil

1 cup flour

4 cups water

Make a dark roux with the oil and flour (this requires time and nearly constant stirring). The roux – when ready – is the color of an old penny. Take the roux off heat, let cool for a few minutes (5 – 10) {this is to lower the temperature of the pot so you aren’t scalded when you add the water}, put back on stove and add water and seasonings:

2 Tbsp. celery seed                           dash of pepper

1 Tbsp. salt per duck                        1 Tbsp. chili powder per duck

1 clove garlic per duck

Stir until spices are dispersed and gravy starts to thicken. Pour this gravy over the ducks in the roaster, cover and cook @ 350 degrees for 3 or 4 hours.


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


This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com