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Flicker Feathers

Joseph Mailliard
Publication Information
3 (May-June)
From Field and Study
PDF icon p0103-p0103.pdf109.51 KB

Flicker Feathers

Among the curios of the Pacific Coast Indians in the museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, is an ornament in the shape of a thin flat belt, six or eight feet long--probably worn over the head--composed entirely, or nearly so, of the tail feathers (rectrices) of flickers (Colaptes). The feathers are so placed that the quills are toward the center, the butts overlapping each other, the ends of the feathers being evenly arranged toward the outside, all same side uppermost, and fastened together with fine twine. This ornament must represent a large number of birds and is unique under any circumstances. But one of the most interesting things about it is the fact that every once in a while--say from one to two feet apart--the rectrices of a cross-bred flicker (cafer + auratus) appear. It seems as if the tails of the birds must have been added as they were killed, for the more or less golden quills of the cross-bred birds appear in bunches of ten or twelve, making distinct breaks in the color scheme, while if the feathers had been indiscriminately mixed before being fastened in the belt these golden shafts would hardly be noticeable. This ornament is locked in a glass case, lying topside uppermost, as it were, and I had no opportunity to examine the underside where the gilding of the feathers would have been much more distinct.


San Francisco, California.

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