posted February 28th, 2012; last edited August 20th, 2012 –– David Sibley

Introduction to breast feathers

Belding's Savannah Sparrow showing the feather groups on the underside of the body. Moving the cursor over the image will show the outline of the breast feathers. Photo taken in San Diego CA, copyright David Sibley.

One of the well-defined groups of feathers on the underside of a bird is what we call the breast. In reality, on songbirds these feathers grow from the front of the neck, extending down so that the tips of the feathers (which is all we can see) cover the foreparts of the body – the breast. Given that they are attached to the neck, the breast feathers move around a lot depending on whether the neck is coiled or outstretched.

The breast feathers usually show a fairly sharp distinction from the throat and nape feathers above and a more subtle shadow where they meet the flank and belly feathers below. In the case of the Savannah (Belding’s) Sparrow shown above notice that the brownish streaks on the breast feathers are not lined up with the streaks on the flanks.

Below are two more photographs showing the breast feathers. Moving your cursor over the images will show the outline of the breast feathers.

White-crowned Sparrow. Photo taken at Pine Butte Guest Ranch, Montana, copyright David Sibley.

Tree Swallow. Photo taken at The Nature Conservancy's Pine Butte Guest Ranch in Montana, copyright David Sibley.

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