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That technique generally looks more like fur than feathers so perhaps try it on a furry animal? Also do it all over, the plain breast looks out of place. The eye area looks good. Having said that it's probably not something I'd try (except for the branch!) so well done for even attempting it. 

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Thanks VectorVonDoom! I agree that it does lean toward fur. I tried to create the feathers with the pen tool by first drawing only two then duplicating, flipping, distorting, or scaling, grouping with originals followed by more duplicating,... ad infinitum.. to allow laying down the groups while changing the colour/opacity/ fx values. (There are probably less than 12 or 14  separately drawn feathers.) but I can see I should have brought these further down the breast and with more attention to the direction of the growth. Also allowing some of these the lay atop the vector bird object and project over the edge rather than be contained within it would have lent a more realistic look. I’m wondering if there is a way of using masks to achieve a better result? Maybe symbols have a place here? Lots of experimenting and learning ahead for me. Thanks for your kind critique! It is very helpful to hear how it is seen by a more experienced eye!

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Feathers are complicated things when you look closely and so difficult to get to look right if you are aiming for realistic although some subjects are slightly less complicated than others. Perhaps one day I'll have a play trying to do an illustration of one of my parrots or part of. I'm guessing it wouldn't go well or be too much work but you don't know unless you try! 

I'm not sure there's a way of simplifying the process but it's interesting trying to. Not sure how masks would help but a number of detailed feathers then repeating them might at least in places. You would need to check references to see how they are layered/overlap and try and replicate. Also the direction of them isn't random which is partly why it looks like fur so you'd need to take that in to account too. The trouble is if you do one section detailed you have to do it everywhere or it looks odd and it's not just a few feathers. All in all not an easy thing to do but the same applies to most living things, at least for me.

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