The hands of Caudipteryx supported symmetrical, pennaceous feathers that had vanes and barbs, and that measured between 15–20 centimeters long (6–8 inches). These primary feathers were arranged in a wing-like fan along the second finger.No fossil of Caudipteryx preserves any secondary feathers attached to the forearms, as found in Archaeopteryx and modern birds.Either these arm feathers are not preserved, or they were not present on Caudipteryx in life. An additional fan of feathers existed on its short tail. The shortness and symmetry of the feathers, and the shortness of the arms relative to the body size, indicate that Caudipteryx could not fly.The body was covered in a coat of short, simple, down-like feathers.It is thought to have been an omnivore.
The discovery of Caudipteryx led to many intensive studies on and debate over the relationship of birds and dinosaurs. The possible positions in the debate can be summarized as follows: Caudipteryx is either a member of the Oviraptorosauria, a bird, or both.