Ethnoornithology (also ethno-ornithology) is the study of the relationship between people and birds (from "ethno-" - relating to people and culture - and "ornithology" - the study of birds). It is a branch of ethnozoology and so of the wider field of ethnobiology. Ethnoornithology is an interdisciplinary subject and combines anthropological, cognitive and linguistic perspectives with natural scientific approaches to the description and interpretation of people's knowledge and use of birds. Like ethnoscience and other cognate terms, "ethnoornithology" is sometimes used narrowly to refer to people's practice rather than the study of that practice. The broader focus is on how birds are perceived, used and managed in human societies, including their use for food, medicine and personal adornment, as well as their use in divination and ritual. Applied ethnoornithological research is also starting to play an increasingly important role in the development of conservation initiatives.

History of ethnoornithology

The work of Ralph Bulmer in New Guinea, culminating in his collaboration with Ian Saem Majnep in writing Birds of My Kalam Country (1977), set a new standard for ethnoornithological research, and this book has deservedly become a classic of modern ethnoornithology.

Ethnoornithology and conservation

Like other branches of ethnozoology, ethnoornithology has been long undervalued as a resource for conservation, though this is now beginning to change. Mark Bonta's Seven Names for the Bellbird (2003), which highlights the importance of local traditions and practices relating to birds for the future of biodiversity conservation in Honduras, and Ricardo Rozzi´s Multi-ethnic Bird Guide of the Subantarctic Forests of South America (2003), which focuses on the integration of traditional ornithological knowledge and environmental ethics in southern Chile, provide good examples of this trend. Soma (2015) pointed out that ethnoornithological knowledge of falconers contribute to conservation for local avifauna (especially focusing on Kazakh eagle masters). This realisation is the basis for founding the Ethno-ornithology World Archive (EWA), a collaborative project between Oxford University (linking the Department of Zoology and School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography) and BirdLife International.

Professional associations

The Society of Ethnobiology, which publishes the Journal of Ethnobiology, provides a general forum for ethnobiological - including ethnoornthological - research. In January 2006 the Ethnoornithology Research & Study Group (ERSG) was established "to provide a clearinghouse, information source and discussion point for people interested in the study of, research about and application of indigenous bird knowledge".


  • Bonta, M. (2003). Seven Names for the Bellbird: Conservation Geography in Honduras. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.
  • Feld, S. (1982). Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics, and Song in Kaluli Expressions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. (2nd edition published in 1990).
  • Forth, G. (2004). Nage Birds: Classification and Symbolism among an Eastern Indonesian People. London & New York: Routledge.
  • Majnep, I.S. & Bulmer, R.B. (1977). Birds of My Kalam Country. Auckland: Auckland University Press.
  • Rozzi, R. et al. (2003) Multi-ethnic Bird Guide of the Subantarctic Forests of South America. University of North Texas Press & Ediciones Universidad de Magallanes. (2nd edition published in 2010, ISBN 978-1574412826,
  • Tidemann, S. & Gosler, A. (2010). Ethno-ornithology: Birds, Indigenous Peoples, Cultures, and Society. London: Earthscan (Routledge).
  • Soma, Takuya. (2015). "Human & Raptor Interactions in the Context of a Nomadic Society: Anthropological and Ethno-Ornithological Studies of Altaic Kazakh Falconry and its Cultural Sustainability in Western Mongolia". Germany: University of Kassel Press.

External links

Ralph Bulmer

For the 16th-century knight, see Ralph Bulmer (soldier)Ralph Neville Hermon Bulmer (3 April 1928 – 18 July 1988) was a leading twentieth-century ethnobiologist.

Ricardo Rozzi

Ricardo Rozzi (born October 6, 1960, in Santiago) is a Chilean ecologist and philosopher who is professor at the University of North Texas (UNT) and the Universidad de Magallanes (UMAG). His research combines both disciplines through the study of the interrelations between the ways of knowing and inhabiting the natural world, proposing a dynamic continuous reciprocal feedback between both domains. His work at UNT forms a central part of the nation's best program in environmental philosophy (

Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union

The Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, now part of BirdLife Australia, was founded in 1901 to promote the study and conservation of the native bird species of Australia and adjacent regions. This makes it Australia's oldest national birding association. It was also Australia's largest non-government, non-profit, bird conservation organisation. In 1996 it adopted the trading name of Birds Australia for most public purposes, while retaining its original name for legal purposes and as the publisher of its journal the Emu. In 2012 it merged with Bird Observation & Conservation Australia to form BirdLife Australia.The RAOU was the instigator of the Atlas of Australian Birds project. It was also the publisher (in association with Oxford University Press) of the encyclopaedic Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Its quarterly colour membership magazine was Wingspan. The RAOU is the Australian Partner of BirdLife International. The motto of the RAOU was 'Conservation through Knowledge'.

Primary subdisciplines
Other subdisciplines
Correlated fields
Notable ethnobiologists

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