On Earth, hair has become little more than a tool of identity, and many people around the world have taken to dying their hair various colors to go with their style.

Let's say I have a species of angels (the feasibility of which existing is not in this questions' scope), would they be able to dye their feathers different colors?

To follow up on this question, would they still be able to fly? How much would their flight be hindered? If they could not, how close can they get?

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    $\begingroup$ By angels, I take it you mean flying humans with wings? Because if you're talking about angels as understood by major monotheist religions today, they are pure spirits and their wings are just metaphorical... so they can't die their wings, nor their hair. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ @PedroGabriel Angels did appear to have a physical body in several biblical passages. Abraham fed them in Gen 18:8, Jacob wrestled with an angel Gen 32:22-32, etc. the question not answered in the Bible is whether these manifestations are actual physical beings, and simply a physical manifestation of of a pure spiritual being $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ Given that humans with wings cannot fly using known physics, you're into magic. So they can do whatever you want. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b You can have flying humanoid angels, that's fine, but we don't know how they fly. If we don't know how they fly, we don't know how dieing their feathers would affect their flight. Either it's magic flight and you can do what you like, or you have to explain how they fly. It doesn't have to be known physics, but there has to be a reality to check. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ You can dye feathers on live birds. Lord Berners used to dye his pigeons. $\endgroup$
    – user207421
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 0:38

2 Answers 2


Feathers can be dyed just like hair or skin or leather or fabric; this is really common knowledge. Feather dyeing has been practiced all over the world for a very long time. Here is photo of a Hawaiian 'ahu'ula, or feather cape, made of dyed feathers and cotton for Queen Kapi'olani in 1882:

(Photograph by Wally Gobetz on Flickr; available under CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0.)

There is a beautiful pictorial in The Guardian showing a Spanish sub-culture of pigeon fanciers who race their brightly colored pigeons ("The Spaniards who paint their pigeons in Day-Glo colours – in pictures", with photographs by Rio Casas, 6 August 2014); this shows that not only feather take dyes, but that dyeing their feathers doesn't affect birds' flight.

(Cannot embed pictures here because there is no indication that sharing is allowed; you must go to the newspaper's website to see them; it is worth a click.)

The racing pigeon culture of Valencia and Murcia is discussed in "Flying high with Spain's neon-painted racing pigeons" by Sean O'Hanagan (same source, same date):

It is a mischievously drab opening shot for this surreal look at the racing pigeon culture of Valencia and Murcia in Spain, where breeders paint their birds in garish colours and release them to chase after a lone female. The pigeon that spends most time in her winged company wins.


There is such local prestige attached to owning a champion bird, hence the seriousness with which they pursue their hobby. From the ground, the men follow the flight of their individual pigeons – easily recognisable by colour – urging them on and rescuing them if, as often seems to be the case, they land on treetops or tall buildings or electric wires for a breather.

Since human-sized angels cannot possibly fly without mechanical help in Earth's atmosphere, it's moot to ask how much would their flight be hindered; it's pure fantasy anyway.

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    $\begingroup$ "It's moot to ask since it's fantasy" that's bunk... half of making a believable story is sticking to realism where possible... Knowing that people can dye pigeons - who can still fly when dyed- is the only answer that matters, IMO. $\endgroup$
    – WernerCD
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ Those pigeons suggest that dye wouldn't make angel flight any more impossible than it currently is, which is useful to know. $\endgroup$
    – Soron
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 5:55
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    $\begingroup$ "really common knowledge" - I for one did not know that actual flying birds were painted commonly. --- "Since human-sized angels cannot possibly fly". The concept is that some things are part of the question, and some are not, especially if the OP went to the trouble of specifying the latter. In this particular world building world, angels do exist, and they do fly (at least as long as their feathers are white). Doing it away with "it's pure fantasy anyway" would invalidate about 90% of all questions in this Exchange. I think the answer could be improved by removing the judgmental part. $\endgroup$
    – AnoE
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ It can happen accidentally. "The thing that shocked us the most was the smell. He smelled amazing, he really smelled good." $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ @AnoE: It is common knowledge that feathers can be dyed. It is much less common knowledge that the feathers of live birds can be dyed harmlessly: that's why the bulk of the answer concentrates on the less common knowledge. It is important to emphasize that since human-sized animals cannot fly in Earth's atmosphere without mechanical help anyway, it makes no sense to discuss how would their flight capabilities be affected by dyeing their wings. It is always useful to make clear what's the boundary between reality and fiction. At least I like to think so. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 10:12

The dye will probably alter the texture of feathers' surface, wich can decrease or increase their performances depending the nature of the dye.

This mean angel would probably use dye if their wings are not already perfect, not only for aesthetic purposes, but also for performance.


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