What is a Badminton Birdie? The “Ball” of Badminton, Explained.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. See our Privacy Policy for more information.

Affilate Program Icon
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

To the unfamiliar, badminton probably looks like a really strange sport. People carry thin and lanky rackets hitting this weird feathered thing back and forth. What a strange “ball” – what is it?

A birdie is the “ball” of badminton and consists of a cork and either synthetic nylon, duck, or goose feathers. It is also known as a shuttle or shuttlecock, but is also informally known as a birdie because of the feathers used to create it and how it flies like a bird. It is built and designed in a way for it to easily fly through the air in a consistent and predictable manner.

Join our mailing list on our About Page for exclusives, offers, and the latest news from BadmintonBites! By joining, you’ll get 25% off anything from our shop!

BadmintonBites Free Downloadable PDF Badminton 101

What is the Name of Badminton’s Ball Called?

Badminton’s ball is officially called a shuttlecock. Is is also known as a “birdie”, “bird”, or “shuttle”. The shuttlecock is not actually a ball, but is a cork with 16 feathers sticking out of it.

What Does a Birdie Look Like?

A feathered birdie consists of a cork and 16 feathers that are inserted into the cork and kept in place with glue. The feathers are connected together with 2 layers of string to hold them in place and keep the birdie’s form. A dark strip is then placed on the outside of the cork to make it easily visible when it is in flight. Finally, a sticker is typically stuck on the cork in the middle of all the feathers to indicate what brand and type of birdie it is.

Badminton Birdies AS-50
AS-50 Birdies

If you take a look at our BadmintonBites logo, it’s actually a birdie – with a bite in it! Get it? Badminton…Bites? Ok, well, birdies have become the universal symbol for badminton because of its iconic shape and look. You’ll be seeing it a lot more if you’re just getting into badminton.

BadmintonBites Logo
The BadmintonBites logo

Synthetic birdies, similarly to feathered birdies, have a cork as its base with a dark strip on it. The feathers, however, are replaced with plastic that is creased in a way to provide stable flight and are supported by spokes that connect to the cork. These plastic birdies often come in bright yellow or white and also have a sticker in the middle of the cork to indicate its type and brand.

Synthetic Birdies
Synthetic birdies

How Heavy is a Birdie?

A birdie weighs between 4.75 and 5.50 grams (0.16 and 0.19 ounces). Anything outside of this range is considered illegal for official tournaments since the weight of a birdie can have significant impact on control and make a big difference in a match.

How Fast Can a Birdie Fly?

A little known fact is that badminton is actually the fastest racket sport in the world. We can illustrate this by taking a look at the fastest badminton shot – the smash. The fastest recorded smash in tournament play was by Mads Pieler Kolding at 426 kph (264.7 mph) on January 10, 2017 – wow that’s fast! Other top smashes by professionals range from 380 to 410 kph (236 to 254 mph). In comparison, the fastest official tennis serve of all time is 253 kph (157.2 mph) by John Isner. An even more shocking fact is that the maximum speed of the fastest train in the world is 430 kph (267.8 mph) – just barely faster than the fastest recorded badminton smash. Badminton smashes are no joke – imagine the fastest train in the world coming at you from just 9 meters (29.5 feet) away!

A shuttlecock can fly almost as fast as the fastest train in the world.

Since professional badminton only uses feathered birdies, there is no data for the fastest smash with a synthetic birdie. However, synthetic birdies are supposed to mimic the flight of a feathered birdie and may actually be able to fly faster because it produces less air resistance than a feathered birdie.

Both feathered and synthetic birdies actually come in several different speeds. Usually, they come in 5 different levels, ranging from very slow to very fast. The reason why they come in so many different speeds is because the environment can affect which type of birdie you should use. Birdies move slower when it is colder and faster when it’s hotter. Therefore, the lower the temperature of the environment, the faster the birdie you want to use and vice versa.

How Long Does a Birdie Last?

The lifetime of a feathered birdie largely depends on your level of play as a birdie can slow down or fly differently after use. Professionals tend to switch birdies every 3 or 4 rallies and some even change new birdies after every rally! Medium level players typically switch out birdies after every 15 to 40 points. And beginners tend to use a single birdie for an entire badminton session. Really, if all of the players are satisfied with how the birdie flies, then continue on, otherwise switch!

We understand that feathered birdies can be quite costly, especially if you switch them out frequently. We wrote a post specifically to help increase the lifetime of your birdies to help you save money. If you’re interested in being more cost effective with your birdies, make sure to check it out at How Do You Make Your Shuttlecock Last Longer.

Synthetic birdies are much more durable than feathered birdies since feathers are much more brittle than plastic. Because of this, a synthetic birdie can last 5 times longer than a feathered birdie – or even longer if you’re ok with some deformation of the plastic. For this reason, synthetic birdies are more eco friendly and are typically used in lower level play where mishits are more frequent.

For both feathered and synthetic birdies, make sure to keep the ones that are switched out in the middle of a game. While they may no longer be good enough to be used for a game, they may still be reused later on during warm up or for drills. This will let you prolong the usefulness of your birdies and get more bang for your buck.

How Much Does a Birdie Cost?

Feathered birdies usually cost between $15 and $50 (USD) for a tube of 12 depending on the brand and grade of birdies. This comes to around $1.25 to $4.17 per birdie. Popular brands include Yonex, Victor, and Aeroplane. I personally recommend Yonex birdies because of their high quality and durability. They’re also the trusted brand that is used at professional international badminton tournaments around the world. If you want to learn more before making any purchasing decision, make sure to read The Complete Guide to Yonex Badminton Shuttlecocks (Feathered). We break down the different properties of birdies in the post and what you should be looking for as well as provide you with our opinion and description on the different Yonex products.

Synthetic birdies tend to cost between $10 and $20 (USD) for a tube of 6. This comes to around $1.66 to $3.33 a birdie. Once again, I would recommend Yonex products for synthetic birdies because of their extensive research into making synthetic birdies fly as similarly as possible to a feathered birdie.

Where Can I Buy Birdies?

Birdies can be found at your local badminton gym. They usually sell them at the front counter and have a variety you can choose from. If you don’t have easy access to a badminton gym, you can find some in your local sport stores such as Big 5 Sporting Goods or Dick’s Sporting Goods but they will typically not have good quality birdies in stock. Other options include buying online such as on Amazon, Yumo Pro Shop, Badminton Warehouse, or Badminton Bay.

What is an Interesting Fact About Birdies?

An interesting fact about feathered birdies is that all the feathers are taken from the left wing of a duck or goose. By taking all the feathers from the same wing, it makes it so the birdie does not wobble when it flies and to also make sure that players have a consistent experience when playing badminton on different occasions. If a birdie was made with only feathers from the right wing of a duck or goose, it would actually fly a little bit differently! When a birdie is made with feathers from the left wing, it will spin clockwise when hit. On the contrary, it will spin counterclockwise if made with only feathers from the right wing. Be aware that there are actually some brands that make birdies with the feathers of the right wing but sell them for cheaper since they are not allowed to be used in official play.

A lot of work actually goes into making feathered birdies to make sure they fly consistently and are durable. Take a look at how they are produced at Yonex, the leading badminton company, and you’ll understand why their birdies produce such great results!

Are Feathered or Synthetic Birdies Better?

Choosing between feathered and synthetic birdies all comes down to what you’re looking for. Feathered birdies are great because of its flight pattern and synthetic birdies are great because of its amazing durability. While it may not seem like a big difference, it will be noticeable if you end up playing a lot of badminton. Switching from one type of birdie to another may actually take you by surprise because of the subtle differences!

Overall, I would recommend that if you’re new to badminton and are looking to just get a feel for the sport, use a synthetic birdie. It’s much more cost effect and you probably won’t notice the difference in flight pattern. Moreover, mishits won’t damage the birdie as much and is easier to hit farther. If you’re serious about getting better and playing at a high level, use feathered birdies because subtle changes in the flight pattern can make a big difference in serious matches. Also, all high level tournaments use feathered birdies so you don’t want to have to get used to it in the middle of a tournament. No matter which you choose, I’m sure you’ll have fun and would love to hear what your opinions are in the comment section below!

Subscribe on our About Us page, see you there!

Thank you for reading! Our most popular posts are our badminton equipment posts, make sure to check them out next.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our email list down below for a FREE downloadable PDF and a 25% COUPON CODE for our store.

BadmintonBites is all about honest and authentic badminton content. The goal of BadmintonBites is to create real value for the badminton community, which is often plagued with subpar or downright false content on the internet.

Badminton deserves so much more and we’re here to share our experience and expertise with you. You can read more about BadmintonBites and our purpose on our About Us page.

We would love to have you with us on our badminton journey and we hope to provide you with as much value as possible.

Here’s some guides and reviews on badminton products. We update this list whenever we add new equipment content – hope you enjoy!

Equipment TypeProduct Category
Bags Yonex Badminton and Tennis Bags
Yonex Pro Racquet Bag (9 PCS) Review
GripsYonex Grips
Yonex Clean Grap Review
Yonex Hi Soft Grap Review
Yonex Super Grap Review
Yonex Super Grap Tough Review
Yonex Tacky Fit Grip Review
Kimony KGT109 Grip Review
Badminton Grip Buyer’s Guide
RacketsYonex Astrox Series
Yonex Duora Series
Yonex Nanoflare Series
Yonex Nanoray Series
Yonex Voltric Series
Victor Auraspeed Series
Victor Thruster Series
Victor DriveX Series
Victor Light Fighter Series
Best Rackets for Beginners
Best Rackets for Intermediate Players
Best Rackets for Smashing
Best Rackets for Control
Badminton Racket Buyer’s Guide
Astrox 77 Review
Astrox 77 Pro Review
Astrox 88D Pro Review
ShoesYonex Shoes
Shoe Products
ShuttlecocksUltimate List of Badminton Shuttlecocks
Yonex Shuttlecocks (Feathered)
Yonex Shuttlecocks (Synthetic)
Yonex Aerosensa 20 (AS-20) Review
Yonex Aerosensa 30 (AS-30) Review
Yonex Aerosensa 50 (AS-50) Review
Victor Shuttlecocks Overview
Victor AirShuttles
Victor Master No. 3 Review
Li-Ning Shuttlecocks Overview
Aeroplane Black Label (EG1130) Review
StringsVictor and Ashaway Strings
Yonex Strings
Best Badminton Strings for Beginners
MiscYonex Accessories Guide
8 Pieces of Equipment Every Badminton Player Needs
16 Best Gifts for Badminton Fans


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *