Avian Voices in Song, Story, Wisdom, and Warning

Session Organizer(s): 
Nicole Sault
- nicole@sallyglean.org

While ornithologists examine birdcalls and songs within the context of ethology, ethno-ornithologists go beyond these observable behaviors to consider the relationship between birds and people in cultural context. This includes creation stories with avian heroes, myths of transformation where birds change into people or vice versa, and birds as the source of human speech. In addition, many societies believe there is bird wisdom encoded in signs, omens, and dreams, which can be interpreted by specialists. Through song and dance, calls and whistles, people and birds communicate with each other. These papers address bird talk in terms of perception, hearing and understanding on various levels, and consider which particular birds are recognized for their abilities to advise or instruct, signal changes in the environment, and warn of impending danger. In what ways have avian voices been ignored, misappropriated, or silenced?