Say, you're running along the trail and you discover a bird feather. Is it safe to pick up?
My default reaction is no. But why? Feathers carry diseases. Right?
Lowering my camera, I focus in on what has now captured one's attention.
"Don't pick that up!"
It's a feather.
He pauses and looks up at me, his fingers inches from the feather.
"Don't pick that up. They can carry disease."
Like the author, somewhere along the lines I was told that feathers are inherently dangerous. And yet, they are almost certainly not. The general consensus appears to be it's bird poop on the feathers that's a problem (that's where nasty bacteria would live). Other than that, you aren't going to catch West Nile Virus (that involves blood, and most likely mosquitoes) or lice or mites.
And yet, advice that bird features should be avoided is still dispensed.
OK, so assuming you can safely touch feathers (I'm touching everything else in the woods, why not feathers?), what the heck are they good for?
Well, for one thing, Feathers Are Amazing. Collecting them for their beauty alone makes sense.
I thought this brief story summed up my take on feathers well:
I have issues with feathers too because my Mother told me they had lice, when I was little.
I still can't pick them up, or let DS1 pick them up without feeling gross.
Recently Mum was collecting feathers with DS1 and I said something shocked. She said 'Oh, I probably just told you that because I didn't want you collecting them'. Thanks Mum. Way to give me a life long paranoia!
So yeah, parents, be careful what you teach your kids. They may just listen to you.