Tail Feathers copyright of Giulio Porta. all rights reserved.

If the Osprey's final rendering doesn't involve any close ups, regardless if made for a still shot or an animation, there is no need for details in modeling the tail. If it does

Wings are a separate issue, and we'll deal with them as such in separate tutorial, even though the feather modeling ideas dealt with in this tutorial will apply to the wings as well.

This model of an eagle, curtsey of Bone Clones, illustrates how an eagle approaches landing, either landing to rest or landing a pray. Even though there are differences between an Eagle and an Osprey, their similarities are greater than the differences.

I've learned quite a bit just by looking at this skeleton. I found it a bit late in the modeling process, but it's never too late to bring some modifications to the model.

Extruding the feathers

Each feather will be extruded from an edge very much like the fish's fin.

The process is relatively simple an edge is select by selecting the 2 control points that spans it and the extrusion will take place when the Extrusion Mode icon.

You can also select and extrude multiple edges, because each feather has it own direction and shape, there is no actual advantage in extruding multiple feathers. You will have to still deal with each one of them again separately.


Modeling the feathers

The first consideration that needs to be made is where exactly these feathers should be attached to the bird's body, even though it may not be very clear from photographs where that area is.

The other important consideration should be based on the fact that the bird cross section is circular, and even when flatten to simulate the tail the bird will still have a lower and higher row of splines.

Feathers should not be extruded all the way around the circular cross section.

In this particular illustration you may notice that I have started extruding feathers from both the upper an lower rows of the tail circular cross section.

I changed my mind very quickly about the viability of that approach, I deleted the lower row feathers and extruded them only from the upper row.

Because the upper row and lower rows have different number of points the situation could get messy.

Aside from that each extruded feather must be modified: begin by adding a spline right down its middle, and by moving its center point backward to give each feather a more feathery look.

The new spines added down the middle of each feather will create a 5 point patch at the base of each feather.

Each 5 point patch must be patched to look and render solid.

the making of 5 point patches is covered in the head modeling tutorial, just to refresh your memory here are some tips:

  • pick the points in a sequence
  • pick point and spines inside the patch, non the portion of a spline leading outside the patch.
  • if the patch doesn't patch try again, try in a different sequence.
  • if the 5 point patch just doesn't want to patch, break a spline leading into it and patch it again.
I kept this stage of the model to show you the adverse effect of extruding around the whole tail cross section.
Here's the tail at its current stage, only one row of splines has been extruded.
This picture, here to the right, is what made me rethink the arrangement of the tail's feathers.

Apparently when an Osprey lands, slows down, or attacks its pray, its tail fans out creating more wind drag, thus slowing down the bird.

I want to be able to do that with this Osprey model, or at least have the option of doing it.

Now that all the tail's feathers are in a row I shouldn't have much of a problem in animating the feathers to fan out. That will be done later in another tutorial.

Yet another photograph indicated that when the Osprey flies or is perched on a branch the trail's feathers tend to bunch up, that can also be accomplished in another tutorial.