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Wikipedia's entry for shuttlecock reads thus:

A shuttlecock (also called a bird or birdie) is a high-drag projectile used in the sport of badminton. It has an open conical shape: the cone is formed from 16 or so overlapping feathers, usually goose or duck and from the left wing only, 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. 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.

While I suppose that there might be some logic to using feathers from the same wing for each shuttlecock, I find it hard to believe that the wing always has to be the left one. How true is Wikipedia's (reference-less) claim? If true, why is this the case?

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    The logic would be so that the feathers are always the same same shape, so the shuttlecock always falls/floats/flies in the same pattern. I have no idea if it's true, though... this is just my deductive reasoning at work. – Flimzy Aug 16 '13 at 18:56
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    I said "non-forum". Most of those are fora or yahoo / wiki answers style sources. I can do a google search. – Avi Aug 16 '13 at 23:11
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    Would the wing selected be different for shuttlecocks made for use in the Southern Hemisphere? – DJohnM Aug 17 '13 at 0:16
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    On a related topic, quill pens were made using feathers from only one specific wing, owing to the propensity of the end of the feather to poke the writer in the eye, depending on the relationship of wing and the writer's handedness. Did quill pen manufacturers make shuttlecocks with the leftovers? – DJohnM Aug 18 '13 at 21:36
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    The only badminton shuttlecocks I ever played with were made out of plastic :) – user5341 Aug 19 '13 at 20:35
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Issue:

Are badminton shuttlecocks made using feathers from only the left wing of a goose or a duck? Source: Shuttlecock aerodynamics

Evidence:

  1. Badminton World Federation (BWF) the world governing body of the sport of badminton mentions in its shuttlecock manufacturing certification standards that the shuttlecock should have 16 feathers fixed in the base but nowhere it mentions that it should be from the right or left wing of the goose or duck.

2.2 The shuttle shall have 16 feathers fixed in the base.

2.3 The feathers shall be measured from the tip to the top of the base and each shuttle shall be of the same length. This length can be between 62 mm and 70 mm.

2.4 The tips of the feathers shall lie on a circle with a diameter from 58 mm to 68 mm. Source: BWF EQUIPMENT CERTIFICATION PROGRAMME SHUTTLECOCK

  1. The Indian Bureau of Standards process of manufacture of Shuttlecocks document also mentions that it should be 16 feathers glued into the cork but not about the origin of the feathers based on its anatomical right or left position.

The shuttlecocks shall have 16 feathers glued into the holes of the cork with synthetic adhesive. Individual feathers in a given shuttlecock shall be of the same exposed length Source: Indian Standard Shuttlecocks — Specification (Third Revision).

  1. Brett Zarda of Popular science visited a Yonex factory manufacturing shuttlecocks and noted that feathers are chosen from the goose's wing or a duck wing.

Feathers are chosen from the wing starting at the tip. The first three feathers are skipped based on length while the next seven are potentially used for high end shuttlecocks. Feathers beyond this range might find a spot on a practice or American shuttle but would be an insult to good Asian players. The feathers are bleached to create the pure white color but the specifics of that, and any other post-treatment, were apparently lost in translation (we're guessing intentionally). Feathers are then categorized by the curvature, weight and length of the feather to determine their capability for spin and speed. Source: ALL ABOUT BADMINTON.

  1. Paisan Rangsikitpho, a 12-year former deputy president of the Badminton World Federation notes that the geese wings differ in their curvature and this might be utilized in manufacturing shuttlecocks with proper spin during play to reduce wobbling. However no source is mentioned to back up this view.

Why feathers from the left wing? "The goose's left wing and right wing are curved differently," says Rangsikitpho. "If you look with your eye, you may not see it, but it's the way the feathers shape and flow. When you hit it, it has to spin only one way." A shuttlecock made from the feathers of the left wing will spin clockwise. One made from the feathers of the right wing will spin differently—an inconsistency that screws up the game. "Mix them up, right wing and left wing," Rangsikitpho says, "and it will not spin but wobble. Mother Nature made the goose and the duck that way." Source: The Rise of the Shuttlecock

Summary:

Feathers are either from the left or right wing of the bird since using feathers from both wings in a single shuttle cock would affect the flight trajectory of that shuttle cock.

The shuttlecock’s feathers do indeed come from a goose or a duck. The feathers used for producing one shuttlecock are 16 feathers from either right or left wing. We don’t use feathers from both right and left wings for one shuttlecock as this affects flight. Source: Yonex Shuttlecock facts

An employee of Victor Racquets Industrial Corp of Taiwan which manufactures shuttlecocks also seems to agree with the above view.

The goose feathers (and duck) are then sorted into left wing or right wing piles. Only 6 or 7 feathers (my source used the phrase "6 or 7 pieces of feathers" but I believe, from context, that this is just a mis-translation from Taiwanese) from each wing can be used for shuttlecocks. Further, as feathers from left and right wings differ, a shuttle can have only feathers from one side of the goose. The 6 wings of 3 geese can produce 2 shuttlecocks (3 wings per shutte or 1.5 goose per shuttle, ignoring handedness). Source: Shuttle Construction

Flight of the shuttlecock also tends to be influenced by temperature, humidity and altitude.

During tournaments the shuttle flight distance can vary. This is because the speed of the shuttle is influenced by changes in the playing conditions - for example, heat and humidity that can change during the tournament. Source: Yonex Shuttle News

TL;DR: The feathered shuttlecocks used in badminton players are made up of 16 feathers either from the left or right wing of a goose or duck attached to a 'semi-ellipse' shaped cork.

As mentioned previously, the feather shuttlecock is made of 16 goose feathers with a skirt diameter of 65mm, mass is around 5.2 grams (g) and total length is approximately 85mm. Source: Flight trajectory simulation of badminton shuttlecocks

  • I suggest moving the tl;dr to the end. I was going up and down looking for your conclusion and ended up going to the next answer. – Noumenon Aug 8 '16 at 16:35
  • @Noumenon-done! – pericles316 Aug 17 '16 at 15:22
  • Honestly, even better would be just putting the TL;DR at the beginning entirely. But that's just my 2ct. – David Mulder Aug 18 '16 at 7:00
  • @DavidMulder-I can, but no one will read the evidence or the summary, will it be better? – pericles316 Aug 18 '16 at 9:33
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According to Official Tennis-Badminton Guide with Official Rules June 1956-June 1958, within an article titled "Plastic Shuttlecocks or Our Feathered Friend" at page 89:

We have been told that just the feathers from the left wing of a goose are used for the best playing shuttle and at no time do the manufacturers ever mix left and right wing feathers in one shuttle.

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