Feathers are epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, or plumage , on birds . They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates   and a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty.  They are among the characteristics that distinguish the extant birds from other living groups. 
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Middle English fether , from Old English; akin to Old High German federa wing, Latin petere to go to, seek, Greek petesthai to fly, piptein to fall, pteron wing