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Nylon shuttlecock
Feather shuttlecock

A shuttlecock is a high-drag projectile used in the sport of badminton. It has an open conical shape: the cone is formed from sixteen overlapping goose feathers embedded into a rounded cork base. The cork is covered with thin leather.

The shuttlecock's shape makes it extremely aerodynamically stable. Regardless of initial orientation, it will turn to fly cork first, and remain in the cork-first orientation.

The name shuttlecock is frequently shortened to shuttle; it may also be known as a bird or birdie. The "shuttle" part of the name was probably derived from its back-and-forth motion during the game, resembling the shuttle of a loom; the "cock" part of the name was probably derived from the resemblance of the feathers to those on a cockerel.


Feathered vs. synthetic shuttlecocks

The feathers are brittle; shuttlecocks break easily and often need to be replaced several times during a game. For this reason, synthetic shuttlecocks have been developed that replace the feathers with a plastic skirt. Players often refer to synthetic shuttlecocks as plastics and feathered shuttlecocks as feathers.

The cost of good quality feathers is similar to that of good quality plastics, but plastics are far more durable, typically lasting many matches without any impairment to their flight. For this reason, many clubs prefer to play with plastics.

The playing characteristics of plastics and feathers are substantially different. Plastics fly more slowly on initial impact, but slow down less towards the end of their flight. Feather shuttles may come off the strings at speeds in excess of 320 km/h (200 mph) but slow down faster as they drop. For this reason, the feather shuttle makes the game seem faster, but also allows more time to play strokes.

Most experienced and skillful players greatly prefer feathers, and serious tournaments or leagues are almost always played using feather shuttlecocks. Experienced players generally prefer the "feel" of feathered shuttlecocks, and assert that they are better able to control the flight of feathers than of plastics. Because feather shuttles fly more quickly off the racquet face they also tend to cause less shoulder impact and injury. In Asia, where feather shuttlecocks are more affordable than in Europe and North America, plastic shuttlecocks are hardly used at all. All senior international tournaments use only feather shuttlecocks of the highest quality.


A shuttlecock weighs around 4.75 - 5.50 grams. It has 14-16 feathers with each feather 70mm in length. The diameter of the cork is 25-28mm and the diameter of the circle that the feathers make is around 54mm.

Shuttlecocks in art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri features the pop art sculpture Shuttlecocks designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Donated by the Sosland Family, the 1994 installation is made from aluminum, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, paint. At 19 feet 2 9/16 inches by 15 feet 11 7/8 inches, they are the world's largest shuttlecocks.[1] Oldenburg and Bruggen were bothered by how art was treated as high brow and elitist. By designing a piece of athletic equipment in monumental proportions, they aimed to make art accessible and common place.


  1. ^ The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art,

See also

Simple English

A shuttlecock is used in the sport badminton. The shuttlecock center is hit with a badminton racquet over the net, in this fast sport. A shuttlecock is also called a shuttle. Other names for shuttlecock are bird, or birdie, because it can be made with feathers.


Shuttlecocks can be made of many types of materials, including plastic and feathers. It creates a cone shape, and is held together by a round center, usually made of cork or rubber. The cone shape the feathers, or other materials create is called a shuttlecock skirt.

In North America and Europe, feather shuttlecocks cost more. In Asia, where the prices of feathers are lower, shuttles made of plastic are rarely used; feather shuttles are used.

It is harder to hit a feather shuttlecock fast, because there is more drag. They are also less durable than plastic shuttles. Experienced badminton players usually play with feather shuttlecocks, and in competition, badminton is almost always played with feather shuttles. They feel that feather shuttles give them more control, and better play is needed to hit feather shuttles.

In school gyms and amateur/beginner clubs in Europe and North America, plastic shuttlecocks are more often used than feather ones. This is to save feathers, since plastic shuttlecocks do not break easily. Feathers on the feather shuttles bend or break if the player does not hit the cork or rubber center.

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