Ostrich feathers vary greatly in size and type. These are some of the terms:
PLUMES: Generally the naturally white plumes from the male ostrich. These are washed and dried by the ostrich farmer. They are clipped from the bird with no harm.The large wing plumes can range between 20-30 inches long with herl (fibers) width that can exceed 12 inches across. The wing plumes have a thicker stems than drabs. "Feminas" are a type of wing plume similar but from the female. They are of a somewhat lesser quality but still very nice.
DRABS: The drabs are ostrich shoulder feathers and have a thinner stem and somewhat thinner herl. Drabs are naturally gray in color and come mostly from the female birds. They must be bleached somewhat then dyed resulting in some colors being a bit less bright that the wing plumes. Lamplight offers these sizes of ostrich feathers:
WING PLUME SIZES:
Deluxe ostrich wing plumes - 24-30 inches
Premium Short ostrich wing plumes - about 16-24 inches
Mini ostrich feathers - 5-8 inches
Short ostrich feathers - 8-12 inches
Medium ostrich feathers - 12-16 inches
Long ostrich feathers - 16-19 inches
Extra Long ostrich feathers - 19-22 inches
NANDU: Nandu (or nondu) is a term used for ostrich feathers that have been evenly trimmed coming to a point. Very popular in a number of costume applications because they are light and feathery but stand upright and will not sag like many pheasant and coque feathers of similar length. Nandu can be trimmed from either drabs, spads, or wing plumes and come in similar lengths. Here at Lamplight Feather our skilled workers trim all of our own nandu to maintain quality control.
Spads: Spads are a tail feather and can be quite long but much thinner and sparser than drabs or plumes. Some are full enough to be steamed and shaped into passable drabs but most are best trimmed into nandu.
About Ostriches and Ostrich Farming
Ostriches are the largest ratite birds an order of flightless birds that includes the Australian emu, the cassowary of New Guinea, the rhea of South America, and the much smaller kiwi of New Zealand. Some very large ratities like the moa and elephant bird are now extinct. Ostriches are native to Africa where the grassy plains are well suited to their speed and height to observe and flee predators. Ostrich farming began in South Africa in the early 19th century to feed a growing European demand for their attractive feathers in fashion, millinery, costume, uniform, and fan applications. The bird was easily domesticated and found quite easy to raise with incubation and a large acreage for the adults to roam. Fortunes were made akin to those of the California gold rush. The South African Black is the gold standard of ostrich feather producers having been bred for many generations to produce the finest feathers.
Over the decades the demand for ostrich feathers has ebbed and flowed. There has been a marked decline in the number of productive farms in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia which produce the bulk of the world's supply. Premium feathers are obtained from mature breeding age birds and are harvested harmlessly as molted drab feathers and clipped wing plumes. But these feathers have become a neglected and secondary by-product of an industry that is now more interested in the production of meat and leather resulting in fewer birds maturing to the point of premium feather production. The result has been an increasing shortage of quality ostrich feathers and plumes and a steady price increase. As of 2012 we have watched the price for premium plumes to nearly triple in the past few years resulting in higher prices for boas, fans, and other products that rely on high quality ostrich feathers.