It is Columbus Day here in the States, or as we like to call it, New World Dragon Day. Here at the Nest we have a chinchilla emergency so I am sharing an NWDD post from years past.
As any school kid knows, Columbus was not the first European to reach the Western Hemisphere. That was Leif Ericson almost 500 years earlier. But the Norseman’s voyage took him to the northern climes, where cold-weather Dragons frolicked with narwhals and hunted the Grand Banks for seal and sword fish. Hence we celebrate Frost Dragons on October 9th – Leif Ericson Day.
But, in 1492, Columbus was the first European to land in the tropical and subtropical regions of the New World. So it is, on Columbus Day, we celebrate the reclusive, rainbow-hued Feathered Dragons who were suddenly having close encounters with pale Europeans and not liking it one bit.
Of the True Dragons, our plumed friends are the scarcest and least known, so I offer some basic information from The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook:
“Feathered Dragons are the smallest of the True Dragons…. They flit in and out of the rain-forest canopies, wrapping their lithesome tails round boughs of kapok and purple heart. In environments full of the little-known and very unusual, they are the epitome of both, so much so that some doubt they still exist….
Compared to other True Dragons, our feathered friends, while not minute, are definitely on the miniature side. This is a strict function of habitat. Living in and on the edges of the planet’s dense rain forests, these exquisite beings cannot sustain the great size and bulk of their cousins. Theirs is a realm in which lightness and flexibility mean survival.
Mature Feathered Dragons rarely grow to more than 6 meters in length or weigh much over 300 pounds – about 10% of that being their colorful, plumed integument. They have lean, reptilian musculature stretched over a hollow-bone frame. Scales protect belly and lower legs; feathers are everywhere else. Dense bristle feathers run from head to nape, forming wide facial discs and ornate crests radiating round barely visible hornlets which never develop beyond the nub stage. Lustrous contour feathers blanket the rest of their bodies.
Despite the Dragons’ enormity, these outer plumes are comparable to those of the large avians in their environs – macaws, harpy eagles, horn bills, and eagle owls. On the rare occasions such feathers make their way to the forest floor, they are generally assumed to come from more mundane moltings. This misconception affords the Dragons welcome protection from hunters’ sanguine ways. A fine undercoat of semiplumes – and careful preening – make Feathered Dragons naturally waterproof, just what they need to shed the weight of incessant forest showers or when cooling off in crystal cenotes. Where their range bleeds into semi-arid plains – lands deforested by climate change and human greed – this same plumage provides them with insulation against the daytime heat and nightly cold.
Their shimmering wings span a good 3 to 3.5 meters, far and away the most impressive feathered array in the forests. Using their broad plumed tail spades as rudders, they undulate – head to tail – through the skies, looking not unlike a sleek cetacean traversing an airy sea.”
These are the gems of the draconic pantheon we celebrate today. Descendants of the Sovereign Plumed Serpent, of Quetzalcoatl and Kukulcan, they struggle to hold their place in a world foolishly erasing their habitat before it and its denizens are understood.
If you travel to the Amazon or the forests around Iguazu and the Canaima Uplands – areas still wild enough for Feathered Dragons to enjoy – look up through the canopy for an unexpected flash of color. It might just be an elusive plumed Dragon on the wing.
And you shall be a fortunate dracophile, indeed.
 In all of the avian world, only the wandering albatross has a wingspan to even approach the Feathered Dragon’s reach.