The plumage of birds harbors diverse bacteria but their distribution on feathers is unknown. We plucked a single contour feather from the venter of each of 75 passerines captured in mist nets in September, October, and November 1995. Bacteria were significantly more abundant on the distal part of the feather than the proximal part. We suggest that feathers may be a barrier to bacterial infections of the skin and that distal barbs are more likely to be damaged by feather-degrading bacteria than proximal barbs.
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Vol. 112 • No. 3