Underneath all those cleverly protective, water-resistant, aerodynamic, heat-retentive feathers, there is indeed a lot of down. Oh, sure, it’s insulation. But I think it’s largely for snuggling little ones.
I also suspect there is good reason for all our bird-related child-rearing terms: we say that expectant mothers possess nesting instincts, that a careful parent is a mother hen, that being protected is taken under someone’s wing, that when our off-spring grow up, they spread their wings and fly away, leaving their parents to be empty-nesters. Birds are good at this mothering and rearing stuff. And back in the day, most people had backyard chickens to look to as examples.
In my chicken-keeping friend’s backyard, I see all that and the wonders of feathers’ beauty and function. I love white on white (and oh, that perfect touch of black in just the right places!) And then there’s all those layers overlapping and enfolding each other. Like an embrace.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind being taken under a wing now and then. Warm, protected, and downy underneath… .