Unveil the Sacred Adornments: Native Headdresses and Their Feathered Finery

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what kind of feathers are used for native headdresses


For centuries, Native American headdresses have been symbols of cultural pride and identity. But behind these stunning adornments lies a fascinating story about the materials and craftsmanship involved in their creation. One of the most important aspects of a headdress is the feathers used to decorate it.

Pain Points

When it comes to Native American headdresses, the type of feathers used is of great significance. Different tribes and regions have their own unique traditions and preferences regarding the feathers they incorporate into their headdresses. Understanding these cultural nuances is essential for anyone interested in appreciating and honoring the significance of these headdresses.

Type of Feathers Used for Native American Headdresses

The type of feathers used for Native American headdresses varies depending on the tribe and the headdress’s intended purpose. Here are some of the most common types of feathers used:

  • Eagle feathers: Eagle feathers are highly valued and considered to be sacred in many Native American cultures. They are often used in important headdresses, such as those worn by chiefs and spiritual leaders.
  • Hawk feathers: Hawk feathers are also highly prized and are often used in headdresses worn by medicine men and warriors.
  • Crow feathers: Crow feathers are associated with wisdom and trickery. They are often used in headdresses worn by pranksters and storytellers.
  • Turkey feathers: Turkey feathers are widely used in Native American headdresses due to their abundance and availability. They are often dyed to create vibrant colors and patterns.


Native American headdress is a rich and diverse cultural tradition. The type of feathers used in these headdresses is not only determined by their aesthetic appeal but also by their cultural and spiritual significance. By understanding the importance of feathers in Native American headdresses, we can appreciate the beauty and symbolism behind these remarkable cultural artifacts.

Types of Feathers Used in Native American Headdresses

Native American Headdresses with Feathers

Native American headdresses are more than just ceremonial wear. They are symbols of culture, honor, and respect. The type of feathers used in a headdress can vary depending on the tribe, the individual’s status, and the occasion.

Types of Birds Represented in Headdresses

The feathers of eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons are highly prized by Native Americans for their beauty, strength, and spiritual significance. Each bird represents specific qualities:

  • Eagle: Courage, wisdom, honor
  • Hawk: Sharpness of eyesight, hunting prowess
  • Owl: Night vision, wisdom, knowledge
  • Falcon: Agility, speed, war

Types of Feathers Used

Main Body Feathers: These long, primary feathers provide the main bulk and shape of a headdress. They are typically from the wings or tail of larger birds like eagles or turkeys.

Fluff Feathers: Underneath the main body feathers, a layer of downy, soft feathers creates volume and warmth. These feathers come from the inner layers of birds like ducks or geese.

Accent Feathers: Smaller, colorful feathers from various bird species can be added to accentuate a headdress. These include feathers from hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and finches.

Tail Feathers: Long, flowing tail feathers from turkeys, grouse, or other game birds add a dramatic effect to headdresses.

Tribal Variations in Feather Types

Different Native American tribes have their own unique traditions and preferences when it comes to the feathers used in their headdresses.

  • Plains Indians: Eagles, hawks, and owls are common in Plain Indian headdresses, with eagle feathers being the most prestigious.
  • Woodland Indians: Woodland Indians often use turkey feathers in their headdresses, along with feathers from other local birds like woodpeckers and cardinals.
  • Southwestern Indians: Southwestern tribes incorporate feathers from quail, roadrunners, and other desert birds.

Cultural Significance of Feathers

Feathers in Native American headdresses are not simply decoration. They hold deep cultural and spiritual significance:

  • Warriors: Feathers were often earned through acts of bravery or valor in battle.
  • Spiritual Leaders: Headdresses adorned with eagle feathers were worn by shamans and medicine men.
  • Social Status: The size, type, and arrangement of feathers could indicate a person’s social standing within the tribe.


Native American headdresses are vibrant expressions of cultural heritage and spirituality. The types of feathers used in these headdresses vary widely, representing different birds, tribes, and individuals. From the majestic eagle to the humble hummingbird, each feather carries a unique meaning, creating a tapestry of symbolism that connects Native Americans to their ancestors and to the natural world.


  1. What are the most common feathers used in Native American headdresses?
  • Eagle, hawk, owl, falcon, and turkey feathers are highly prized.
  1. Do all tribes use the same feathers in their headdresses?
  • No, different tribes have their own unique preferences and traditions.
  1. What do the different feathers represent?
  • Eagle: Courage, wisdom, honor; Hawk: Sharp eyesight, hunting prowess; Owl: Night vision, wisdom, knowledge; Falcon: Agility, speed, war.
  1. Are only real feathers used in headdresses?
  • Traditionally, real feathers were used. However, some modern headdresses may incorporate artificial feathers for practical or conservation reasons.
  1. What are the spiritual significance of feathers in Native American culture?
  • Feathers are seen as gifts from the Creator, representing a connection to the spirit world and the natural environment.

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