I spent much of last weekend at the St Ives Medieval Fair, we were set up near the falconry group and when I had a little time and they were quiet, I wandered over and started chatting about eagles and feather mites to see if my crackpot theories stood the test of the Experienced Professional. As luck would have it, they had a Golden Eagle and had fletched arrows with the wing feathers, so could speak from a position of some authority.
Conventional wisdom apparently is that each type of bird has its own specific species of feather mite which will only eat the feathers of that bird. It’s also accepted wisdom that wild raptors are the lousiest of all birds, in that they have their own mites, plus picking up passengers from their prey, although the guests don’t have anything to eat and subsequently starve. Looks like my theory is in trouble.
So much for the theories. They did say that they collect the moulted feathers from all their birds and put them together in a box. On more than one occasion they’ve opened to find a pristine eagle sitting in the box looking suspiciously innocent, while the feathers of all the other birds have turned to dust. The box doesn’t get moved much so there isn’t the opportunity for the feathers to rub together. Maybe my theory isn’t so wacky after all.
Gratuitous photo of a White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) as used on the Nydam and Hedeby arrows.
“Haliaeetus albicilla (Svolvær, 2012)” by Yathin S Krishnappa – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.