Recently, I've been struggling to create an avian race that evolved hands to replace its wings. The consensus on that question was that it was not evolutionarily realistic for the bones of a wing to rearrange into the bones of a hand. But then another idea hit me: if the bones of the wing are too specialized for flight to become a hand, what about the feathers?
It's a classic cartoon cliche, but is it evolutionarily possible for a bird that has lost the need for flight to have its wing feathers develop into crude claws? Feathers are made from keratin, the same material as claws and nails. It seems all it would take to make a crude claw is thickening the rachis (shaft), reducing the barbs, and adding a few points of muscle attachment to the quill.
They don't have to be too fancy; I'm just hoping for the ability to grasp and hold objects and maybe to help them climb in rocky environments, not to operate complex technology or perform surgery (I imagine they'd use their foot-talons for that). Just to make them more culturally relatable, I'd like for them to have semi-functional hands even if their foot-talons are more capable manipulative appendages.
So, feathers as crude fingers: Yae or Nay?