Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Cultural Ornithology

With that simple juxtaposition of words, I have just created a new field of science. Yeah, right! I'm thinking of something along the lines of a body of scientific inquiry that would study the intertwinings of birds with human cultures and belief systems. Actually, that concept is probably already emcompassed by the much broader field of ethnobiology, which is the "interdisciplinary study of the relationships of plants and animals with human cultures worldwide." Not surprisingly, there's even a Society of Ethnobiology (SoE). Within the field of ethnobiology, ethnobotany and ethnozoology are major sub-disciplines. Could there also be such a narrow speciality as ethnoornithology? If so, it's adherents must be few and far between. They don't have much of a presence on the Web, at any rate (although a few ethnoornithological abstracts do appear in the published proceedings of SoE meetings). Before leaving this subject, I must mention that American ethnobiologist Amadeo Rea has written three notable books on ethnobiology of the North American Southwest: on botany, mammals and birds (the out-of-print Once a River: Bird Life and Habitat Changes on the Middle Gila).

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