Quills made from different birds are noted to be different, but I cannot find information of what factors are behind these quill differences

The relevant species is a flightless flamingo-like wader which weighs around 60kg. It has large wings which are used for display. Younger specimens are able to fly, though not strongly. Their wing shape is adapted for soaring. Like flamingos, they feed on aquatic microbes. They take 2-3 years to reach maturity, but 7-8 years to reach full size

Given this, what could be determined about quills made from this bird's feathers?

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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think flamingos eat microbes? Seeing as how these birds are nominally able to fly, why would you think their feathers would be different from those of other wading birds? (Eg. flamingos.) $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ Some flamingos 🦩 do have the ability to metabolize the toxin produced by cyanobacteria which contains a certain pigments called carotenoids that gives the bird their colours, similar concept in people who are lactose tolerance so they don't worry about soiling their pants to school/work. But my tier list is simple, whichever left standing in a battle royale is the best bird🏆 $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Feb 20 at 6:55
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    $\begingroup$ Using quills for writing with ink on paper was a strictly European thing, limited in time from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period. In the Antiquity, they used reed pens, and reed pens continued to be used in the Islamic world throughout the period when Christian Europe used feather quills. Goose, swan, and chicken quills worked just fine and were interchangeable. The only requirement was for the primary flight feathers to be large enough; even the feathers of large crows or ravens worked all right. There were no major material differences. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 20 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ I guess that the difference between the Classical Antiquity and the Islamic world where they used reed pens on one hand, and Christian Europe where they used quill pens on the other, is the lack of suitable reeds in colder climates... For the same reason nobody has tried flamingo quills -- there are few place with flamingoes but no reeds. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 20 at 7:07
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    $\begingroup$ It took me no time at all using Google to discover a great variety of bird primary feathers were used as quill pens and that Ostriches prove that a quill pen could be made from the primary feathers of a flightless bird. Research is mandatory. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 20 at 18:08

1 Answer 1


Extract from Otho Band's De Arte Quillomanteia:

... for all practitioners of the Art are acquainted with the ancient maxim: the quality of the bird makes the quality of the quill. By which quillwrights have long understood that certain birds yield superior quills, whilst others provide adequate quills and still others provide substandard quills.

The common goose and the swan, being considered superior, yet quillwrights do not restrict themselves to these birds alone. For they also make fine writing instruments from owl and raven and eagle and other feathers. And thus we consider now this underlying principle of quillomancy: how the qualities of the bird make the qualities of the quill.

First, let us examine the goose. The goose is a braw and bonny bird, a farflier and his meat is healthy. His wings are broad and sturdy and he flies in his formation like unto an arcking arrow or a spear in flight. Fast and high flies the goose and his wings must bear the tumult and tremor of many wingbeats ere he reach his distant destiny in north or south.

It is for this reason: his strength of heart and his hardiness of flight and the hardness of his feathers that the goose makes the finest and most durable quills.


Now let us consider one of the lesser known birds. In our lands, that bird that hight marshwadder is a very great bird indeed. He is girthsome and can not fly at all after his second year. And flies unwell before then! He spends his time standing in the wetwangs and marshes of the land. There he feeds upon the animacules that spawn in those damp and fetid waters. His wings are weak and he only flashes them once or twice in a season before laying, and thereafter rest tucked in and useless.

It is for this reason: that his feathers are therefore small and thin that they make for only the poorest sort of quill.


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