The bone structure in a bird's wing is very similar to the arm and the hand of a human. If you are drawing wings, pay attention to where the shoulder, the elbow, and the wrist go.

The bones of a bird wing

Figure 3.15. The bones of a bird wing

This figure also shows how the large flight feathers connect to the bones. The elbow joint might not always be clearly visible. In that case there is some skin stretching from the wrist to the shoulder smoothing out the contours.


I have found several contradicting sources for the next few paragraphs. Information could be incorrect.

The feathers are shown in the following figure. This is a picture showing the top of a wing.

The feathers of a bird wing

Figure 3.16. The feathers of a bird wing

The primary feathers are the ones connected to the "hand", while the secondaries are connected to the "forearm". Both sets of feathers also have a layer of coverts on top of them, followed by another layer of marginal coverts. On the inside of the wing, there are the scapular feathers, sometimes also called the tertiaries.

A wing as seen from the bottom will show the same structure, but with somewhat shorter coverts. A complete list of all bird species and the particular wing shapes and feather sizes is far beyond the scope of this tutorial. But if you'd like to model your wings after a particular kind of bird, all you have to do is take a look at some photos, and identify the different feather groups. Once you know the structure of a wing, it is much easier to draw all the varieties.

This side of the wing also has some feathers called the alula, which are connected to the “thumb”. These feathers are not visible from the bottom.

In the following examples of wings, the groups of feathers are colored in the same way as in figure 3.16. The bone structure is indicated with a blue line.

Example of wings

Figure 3.17. Example of wings