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View Diary: BP Oilpocalypse Liveblog - ROV #142 (328 comments)

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  •  bird preening/oil (1+ / 0-)
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    Yasuragi

    Feathers have little ridges that interlock between the strands, kinda like the seal on a zip lock bag.    Without that, they don't block air well enough to fly.      They also can provide a level of insulation, like a blanket.   Won't do much for bouyancy, though, except that the preening oil helps keep the feathers from being waterlogged (which the spilled oil might do as well) which is more of an issue with flight.      Even wet feathers can interfere with flight; thick heavy (though bouyant) oil adds weight.   Oiled birds can float but they can't fly.

    When they preen, the are zipping up the feathers and distributing oil from the preening gland that helps seal.   Less well known is that birds make vitamin D in the exposed feathers and ingest it while preening (they can't make it like we do, or would if we ever got a decent amount of sun, in the skin because it is shaded by the feathers).

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