Finding Feathers


Strolling along Big Break’s trails in the summer months, you might start to notice large feathers peppered among the grasses and shrubs. These feathers often belong to one of the park’s permanent residents – the red-tailed hawk.

Because red-tailed hawks do not breed or migrate during the summer, and because they usually settle in places with lots of food, they have plenty of energy to molt – to shed their old feathers and grow new ones. Molting is vital for birds as they rely on feathers to fly, and stay warm and dry, so they must be able to replace old or damaged feathers regularly.

Although collecting is not permitted in East Bay regional parks, we invite you to investigate any feathers that you find on the trails: what do they look like and how do they feel? And before you put them back where you found them, please take a picture to share with us at

FUN FACT: If a flight feather falls off from one wing, the same feather on the other wing will molt too. This molting balance ensures that birds are still able to take off and fly.

REMINDER: Taking of feathers, even molted ones on the ground, is strictly prohibited according to Ordinance 38 of the EBRPD as well as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Jen Vanya, Public Information Specialist