, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 147-156
Date: 11 Nov 2009

Bird-keeping in the Caatinga, NE Brazil

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Brazil has one of the greatest bird diversities in the world, with around 1,800 species. However, many species are now threatened by illegal capture and trade that is largely driven by the culture of keeping wild birds as pets. This study documents the nature and purpose of bird capture and trade in the semi-arid Caatinga biome in northeastern Brazil, which has around 510 bird species and a population of around 25 million people. Data were obtained through observation in the homes of bird keepers and at open air markets, as well as through semi-structured and open-ended interviews and informal conversations with 52 wild bird keepers. We recorded 38 species of birds kept as pets in this study. The family with the largest number of species recorded was the Emberizidae (29%), followed by the Columbidae (16%) and the Psittacidae (16%). The most frequently kept species were: Paroaria dominicana, Aratinga cactorum, Icterus jamacaii, Sporophila albogularis, Turdus rufiventris and Cyanocompsa brissonii, which are all native to this region. Among the recorded species, only Pintassilgo (Carduelis yarrellii) is listed as an endangered species in Brazil. Of the people interviewed, 32% observed a reduction in abundance, or disappearance, of several bird species in the region. The need for measures aimed at the sustainability of wild avifauna use is therefore evident. These include law enforcement, commercial breeding and environmental education, of which the last is considered the most likely to be effective.