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Feathered Dragons

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Dragons have changed a lot over history. From their origins as the giant snakes and serpents that guarded treasures and sacred places in Classical Mythology, they evolved into the monstrous images of Satan of Medieval myth, the fiery Tolkienian engines of destruction and the awe-inspiring godlike beasts of modern fiction. In recent fantasy art and fiction, some dragons are undergoing a new evolution — they're sprouting feathers.

In terms of physical appearance, such dragons can vary from typical dragons with birdlike wings to ones bearing additional tufts or crests of feathers at various points of their bodies. More comprehensive Mix-and-Match Critters may have more even distributions of draconic and avian features, and some may even be primarily avian creatures with secondary dragon traits.

There are, broadly speaking, three reasons for why a dragon might be depicted in such a manner:

  • To signal that this is a more benevolent creature than most dragons. This is a direct application of Good Wings, Evil Wings — because people tend to like birds more than they like bats, swapping out a dragon's chiropteran membranes for avian pinions is a quick and convenient way of making it come across as more beautiful, benevolent and likeable to the audience. Even when these creatures are Feathered Fiends, they tend to be so in a Light Is Not Good sense rather than the monstrous evil of traditional dragons.
  • To play up an association with Elemental Powers such as air or electricity. It's popular in modern fiction to have elementally themed or aligned dragons, and depicting dragons tied to sky-themed elements as having physical traits of the animals most strongly associated with air and the sky is a good way to visually reinforce such themes.
  • Dragons are reptiles, and sometimes they're dinosaurs as well, and the concept that many dinosaurs had feathers is beginning to percolate into popular culture. Works tying dragons to the dinosaurs may depict at least some of the wyrms as feathered as part and parcel of the fact that the dinosaurs most likely to be associated with them, the predatory theropods, were primarily feathery animals themselves.

See also Feathered Serpent, for another sort of feathered, reptilian beasts with their own cultural baggage (specifically, they call back to feathered serpent deities present in many Mesoamerican religions). See Dinosaurs Are Dragons for dragons and dinosaurs who are portrayed as related or interchangeable. See Catlike Dragons, for another portrayal of dragons with the characteristics of real-life animals. See Good Wings, Evil Wings. See Dragons Are Divine for dragons who are gods or like gods.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon:
    • Birdramon and its black-feathered Palette Swap Saberdramon are for all practical purposes gigantic birds, but their names, toothy mouths and control over fire — including Fireball-based Breath Weapons — mark them as very avian members of the dramon family of draconic Digimon.
    • Gatomon's final form, Holydramon, is an Asian dragon with five pairs of feathered wings.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Grandeeney the Sky Dragon is a white wyvern-like dragon with birdlike wings. She raised Wendy, and from her account she was a kind dragon.
    • Downplayed by Acnologia and Irene Belserion, as while they're primarily scaled their wings have a noticeable feather-like quality to them.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Kanna's dragon form is covered in white feathers that are noted to be rather comfortable. At one point in her spin-off, she uses her partially transformed wings as a makeshift down blanket when Saikawa comes down with a fever.
  • Sword Art Online: Silica's familiar is a blue Shoulder-Sized Dragon named Pina, whose species is literally dubbed "Feathered Little Dragon" due to its wings possessing feathers.

    Fan Works 
  • Citadel of the Heart and its predecessor incarnations have the fanmade Digimon Brondramon. The wings, and to a lesser extent, the beard, have always been depicted as being comprised of feathers, all the way down to the wings being avian in structure. Bonus points for Brondramon also being considered a Feathered Serpent by some In-Universe.
  • Destiny Intertwined: Wind dragons have crests of feathers running along their heads and spines, alongside feathered fans on their tails.
  • Pokémon Uranium: The Chicoalt line is a group of Dragon/Grass (and later Dragon/Flying)-types that resemble draconic creatures with avian feathers and beaks. The final stage, Coatlith, becomes a full Feathered Serpent. Likewise, Yatagaryu is an Electric/Dragon-type Pokémon that fully resembles a serpentine, three-legged bird.
  • Pure Light:
    • Depictions of the ancient Light dragons show them with birdlike wings and feathered tail fans.
    • Early chapters of the comic show wind dragons with birdlike wings and crests of feathers down their necks and on their cheeks. This is changed later in the comic's run, where they're depicted with regular wings and scaly ridges.
  • Worlds Apart (MLP): Kesla is an all-white feathered dragon who died centuries ago. The Winged Unicorn Lunarstar is a reincarnation of her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Eragon: One of the movie's numerous and... divisive departures from the novel was to give Eragon's steed, the dragon Saphira, enormous birdlike wings.
  • Maleficent: The famous climactic dragon transformation of the original is transplanted to Diaval the raven, who sports a few plumes of feathers as Morphic Resonance no matter his form. Mistress of Evil sees a distinct but similar transformation when Maleficent awakens as the Dark Fey's phoenix, which is a gigantic beast of similar size.

  • Dracopedia: Acadian green dragons grow thick feathered ruffs over their heads and necks, which grow especially long and colored in males for mating displays.
  • "The Golden Pot": It's mentioned that a lot of evil spirits (including the main antagonist) were born from the feathers of a dragon slain long before the events of the story.
  • The Iron Teeth: Drakes are huge, feathered lizard creatures that have been referred to as Saurans, suggesting a connection to feathered dinosaurs.
  • Legends of Panthera: Teacup Dragons are small, feathered dragons that hoard books.
  • Ology Series: While most of the dragons in Dragonology are either wingless or have traditional membranous wings, the Indonesian subspecies of the eastern dragon are distinguished from the rest by the birdlike wings sprouting from their backs. The same could be said of the Feathered Serpent-based Amphitheres.
  • Temeraire: Zig-zagged. Most of the world's dragons are the scaly kind, but the Mesoamerican breeds have colourful full-body plumage. This causes a minor altercation in the seventh book when an Incan dragon says that Temeraire's glossy black scales, of which he's very proud, look like he was horribly burnt.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Eastern dragons are rarely portrayed with wings in traditional art and folklore, but when they are, they tend to have the feathered variety. One example from Japan is the shifun, which resembles an eastern dragon with the wings, tail and claws of a bird — or alternatively a giant bird with a dragon's head.
  • Western dragons were depicted with feathered wings in the early middle ages, before wings resembling the fins of fishes replaced them later. Bat-like wings only became common in the early modern period.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Anima: Beyond Fantasy: C'iel dragons are humongous, angelical creatures with several wings, entirely covered in white feathers, and a Breath Weapon described as blinding light mixed with white feathers.
  • GURPS Fantasy Bestiary includes aitvaras in its dragon section, depicted as rooster-headed and -winged dragons with macelike tails.
  • Magic: The Gathering: While most dragons in the game have the typical membranous wings, a few sport birdlike wings instead.
    • Ugin, a spirt dragon planeswalker, has feathered wings to reflect his ethereal, enlightened nature.
    • Two of the five draconic broods of Tarkir, which are incidentally born from magical tempests created as a side effect of Ugin's presence there, sport feathered wings.
      • Dragons of the bloodline of Ojutai, which are spawned from magic storms in high, cold mountains and breathe ice, have great white-and-red birdlike wings, in addition to tufts of feathers on their legs. They're enlightened, monk-like and seemingly the most civilized of the dragons that rule Tarkir, but under the surface they're condescending, racist and arrogant, and just as tyrannical as the rest of Tarkir's draconic rulers.
      • Dragons of the brood of Kolaghan, which are instead spawned on the windswept steppes and breathe lightning, have two sets of narrow birdlike wings. They're masters of the skies, and the fastest and most skilled fliers among Tarkir's dragons.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Sirrushes — Neutral Good planar dragons native to Nirvana who serve as heralds and servants to the goddess Sarenrae — are depicted with enormous, golden-feathered wings and tails ending in fans of feathers. Nirvana's other draconic natives, the bliss dragons, likewise sport avian wings.
    • Yamaraj psychopomps resemble dragons covered in black feathers and sporting a pair of raven-like wings, fitting the semi-recurring corvid motif found among the psychopomps. 2nd edition goes further by portraying them with raven-like heads.
  • World Tree (RPG): Zi Ri are very varied in appearance, and often possess avian traits. A given Zi Ri may simply possess avian wings, may have a fully birdlike head, or may outright resemble a scaly, mildly draconic bird.

    Video Games 
  • ARK: Survival Evolved: Previous DLCs introduced wyverns. In the Aberration DLC there are no large flying creatures; however, there is a wyvern equivalent in the Rock Drake, a large reptile with plumage on its head, legs and tail that uses the feathers on its front legs and body to glide across the caverns.
  • Battlerite: The Storm Wyverns that players ride at the start of each game in Battlerite Royale are furry serpents with feathered wings and wolf heads.
  • Dark Souls III: The King of the Storm is a "stormdrake" with dark-blue scales and feathered wings, the only such creature the Souls series has ever shown.
  • Disgaea has the Holy Dragon as a recruitable monster in several of its games. They are furry, feather-winged dragons slightly reminiscent of Falkor the Luck Dragon of The Neverending Story. They are loyal, righteous and have a strong sense of justice, in sharp contrast to most demons. The games do not specify if they are demons who have adopted the ideals of Celestia or are dragons from Celestia.
  • Final Fantasy IX: Both the Nova Dragon and Silver Dragon have this appearance. You fight them both as bosses and Kuja uses the latter to travel throughout a good portion of the game.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: The great wyrm Hraesvelgr has feathery white wings in marked contrast to the black, spiky leather wings of his brother Nidhogg.
  • Fire Emblem:
  • Flight Rising: Some of the dragon breeds.
    • Coatl dragons, who are based off the Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl, resemble feathered snakes.
    • Skydancer dragons somewhat resemble large birds with draconic features.
    • Banescale dragons aren't always feathered, but one of their genes can add a layer of feathers to parts of their bodies. Which makes sense, since the same dragon god who created the Coatls created the Banescales first.
  • Golden Treasure: The Great Green: Most Draak-Kin are covered from head to tail in feathers, although it's unclear as to whether the Onyx Clan has feathers or not. Both birds and reptiles are also said to be cousins of Draak, diverged after the Skyfall that massacred the ancient Draak-Kin.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Lunar: All of the adults dragons in the series have feathers, although the feathers on their body look like fur at first glance and they have some mammalian features. Baby dragons straight up look like cats with feathery wings. If Quark is any indication, Lunar dragons likely lose most of their feathers when they reach old age, and appear to have scales underneath. Downplayed with the blue dragons, which are covered in scales and only have feathers on certain parts of their bodies.
  • Monster Hunter: Bird wyverns are a subtype of the widespread wyvern clade distinguished by their strong resemblance to birds and dromaeosaurs. Many are prominently feathered as a result, such as how Maccao strongly resembles a real-life feathered dinosaur, and others — such as the owl-like Malfestio and the flightless Gargwa — are more like actual birds than anything else.
  • Pokémon:
    • Altaria, a Dragon-type Pokémon, is a large blue bird with lots of puffy cloud-like feathers. When it Mega Evolves into Mega Altaria its cloud feathers gain a kind of iridescence.
    • Latios and Latias resemble dragons and jet planes, but Pokédex entries describe them as having glass-like feathers. They apparently use them to refract light and appear as something else.
    • Tyrantrum has a mane of feathers around its neck. This is due to it being based on Tyrannosaurus rex, making it a dinosaur, and many dinos being known to have had feathers. The Pokedex in Ultra Sun mentions that Tyrantrum is theorized to have had a more extensive coating of feathers back in prehistoric times, but are unable to be fully restored to this state.
    • Pokémon White: Reshiram — one of the two legendary dragons of Unova — has this sort of appearance. Although the art style makes it difficult to tell if it's covered in feathers or fur, the fact that it has wings and is often shown flying does tend to suggest feathers. This piece of official artwork seems to make it explicit.
    • Pokémon Scarlet: Koraidon, the box art legendary, and Roaring Moon, the past paradox version of Salamence, are both Dragon-type dinos adorned with feathers to give them a ferocious and primal look.
  • Secret of Mana: Flammie, who may be the last of his kind, is a white, feathered dragon.
  • Spyro Reignited Trilogy: Several of the Elder Dragons were redesigned with feathered wings, although many of them retain the traditional bat-like wings (and one dragon, Zander, even has wings made of crystal!).
  • Sword of the Stars: Myths of dragons were inspired by the feathered Morrigi, in addition to the stories of medieval angels (due to their Glamour) and trickster crows.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: The Telethia is a large dragon covered in feathers and scales, and is claimed to be the fabled guardian of Mira. It shows up a few times through the game to save the humans from disasterous scenarios, its scales have curative properties (which it only gives to those it deems worthy), and it only attacks you in self defense (meaning you have to attack it first.)


    Western Animation 
  • The Legend of Korra features dragon bird spirits during its second season, which resemble crosses between wyverns and golden birds.
  • Moondreamers: Celeste's space dragon Galaxia has feathered birdlike wings.
  • Wakfu: Aerafal, the Air Dragon of the Emerald Dofus, resembles a classical dragon with four bird-like wings and an eagle-like head, to better enforce the ties to his element of choice.

    Real Life 
  • Several types of carnivorous dinosaurs (which are nature's closest match to dragons) are now thought to have feathers. Some even have "dragon" in their names, such as Dilong ("emperor dragon"). Extra points go to Yi and Ambopteryx, which have bat-like wings in addition to feathers.