My winged people just have feathers on their wings, and maybe small feathers on their back between their wings (from shoulder blades to mid back). Their bodies look generally human.

Here is a link to an image I am basing their structure off of: https://blue-hearts.deviantart.com/art/SB-New-Bones-577558072

My research has gathered that birds need to preen to get rid of parasites that could carry diseases, and also to keep their feathers flexible. They also preen to arrange their feathers in the best and most aerodynamic position for flight, which makes flying easier. They have a preen gland by their tail that either produces preen oil or powder (my hybrid race will have oil because it's better for what they'll need). If birds can't reach certain places (e.g. sometimes the top of their head) they will get a bald spot and the feathers will eventually grow back.

So as you see, preening is essential to healthy wings. My question is: will the hybrids be able to apply the oil to every part of their wings (including their back between the shoulder blades) and arrange every feather just using their hands, considering the limitations of the human arms, or will I have to give them something like longer limbs to be able to reach every spot.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE Nadeshka! I am not quite sure what your question is: are you asking about whether they could reach every spot with their hands (I think we need more information about their wing structure in that case, as human-avian hybrids are normally impossible so your character concept is important) or are you asking about a different way to preen themselves (which probably doesn't need any more information). In any case, please edit your post to clarify this in the body. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jan 24, 2018 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ It all depends on their exact anatomy. See: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/25466/809 $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Jan 24, 2018 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ Avian-human hybrids will stop preening with their beak the moment they learn to invent tools - such as back scratchers - in the same way that our primitive ancestors stopped picking dirt and critters out of fur with their hands the moment we invented combs. Which begs questions like, what's your tech level? How early in their evolution? etc. etc. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 24, 2018 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ Oil plus feathers sounds like a disaster. Think of the effects of oil slicks on sea birds. $\endgroup$ Jan 24, 2018 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenG Different kind of oil. Birds produce their own oil which is good for their feathers whereas crude oil, the kind from spills, is not good for them. $\endgroup$ Jan 24, 2018 at 18:32

3 Answers 3


People. People who preen people. Are the luckiest people in the world.

chimp grooming session http://www.chimpsanctuarynw.org/blog/category/advocacy-2/free-living-chimps/

If your winged people are people, they do not need to reach everywhere to preen. They can have friends and family do it for them. Fingers and nails are great for grooming (front teeth help too) and if you have buddies they can get all those hard to reach spots for you. And I ask: what is the point of being a social animal if you don't get a good grooming now and then?


I'm familiar (a bit) with that work from dA. I see no reason why winged people would not be able to autopreen. My winged people (Daine) are not avian hybrids, though like yours they have both feathered wings and unfeatherd arms. As I understand it, there are glands, I suppose kind of like modified sweat glands, that secrete an oily substance which they will occasionally work into the feathers to keep them healthy.

On occasion, they also moult, which renews the feathers. Being social folk, they also preen one another. They make special combs for hair & feather work alike, and as far as feathers go, different combs for different sized feathers.

I think your winged folk, like Daine, would only run into troubles if their arms became stiff and unable to reach that niggling little spot right there between the shoulders! But I'd suspect also that your winged folk, also like Daine, are social and have probably evolved something of a communal or codependent existence where social preening & grooming is just part of everyday life.

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    $\begingroup$ Just FYI, the link to the hybrid skeleton is not my work, I just put it in there because that is what I am basing my hybrids' structure off. But I love Blue Heart's work on DivianArt too. $\endgroup$
    – Nadia
    Jan 25, 2018 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, thanks for the clarification! Then, I guess I'm nòt familiar with your work there! Otherwise, comments stand as is. And it will be interesting to see what your winged folk end up actually looking like, and perhaps hearing more about them! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jan 25, 2018 at 3:19

Based on the location of the wings, I'm going to say largely no. They might be able to do the very ends of the wings and maybe the area around where shoulder blades should be. Unless there is a device that has been invented to help them (like a highly adapted backscratcher). Other than that they are going to need assistance from someone else.

If this a whole difference species, you could fold it into there purview of hairdresser. That would be interesting to read about in a story. "I'm going to get my haircut and my wings preened see you in 2 hours."


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