What Is Feather “Imping”?
“Imping” is short for “implanting” feathers. Usually, we imp broken wing or tail feathers so a bird can be released as soon as possible, but sometimes we imp feathers to keep adjacent feathers from breaking while a bird is undergoing rehabilitation. In general, we imp birds of prey (raptors) because it can take over a year for them to naturally molt a broken feather. Rather than keep them in captivity waiting for a molt, we implant undamaged feathers so the bird can return to the wild sooner.
In the imping process, we start with feathers that have been harvested and saved from birds that did not survive. We keep a “feather bank” at Tri-State from a variety of species and ages of raptors. When we harvest the feathers, we are careful to keep them in order and label them clearly.
The imping process is fairly complex and involves carefully matching and fitting the donor feathers.
When everything is correctly fitted, we adhere the donor feather into the shaft with strong, quick-drying glue.
The process can take some time, and we often have the patient under anesthesia during the procedure. When done, the imped feathers blend seamlessly with the bird’s own feathers.
We wait several days to release the bird to ensure the imped feathers are securely in place.