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Hunting, use and conservation of birds in Northeast Brazil

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Abstract

Brazil has one of the highest avifauna diversities in the world, and many species are used by human populations in many different ways. Capturing wild birds for food, or to raise as pets, or for commercial purposes, together with the loss of habitat, have been the principal causes of population reductions among many species. The present work provides new information about the diversity of wild bird species used in Ceará State (Northeast Brazil) and the techniques used for capturing them, as well as the forces motivating this hunting, the commercial relationships involved, the maintenance of captive species, and the legal and conservation implications of the use of the regional avifauna. A total of 92 wild bird species belonging to 26 families were found to be used as food (39 spp.), for medicinal (3 spp.) and magic-religious (1 spp.) purposes, for commercial ends (46 spp.), or raised as pets (44 spp.), or killed to control their predation on domestic animals (5 spp.). Raising or selling birds is motivated by their singing and/or their natural beauty, with Thraupidae, Icteridae and Emberizidae being the principal families sought after for those purposes. The Family Columbidae has the greatest importance as a food source. Eleven traditional capture techniques (both active and passive) were identified. The commercial value of the birds varied depending on both intra- and inter-specific factors, and the trade in these animals involved both dealers who sold large numbers of individuals at low prices and specialists (“passarinheiros”) who sold just a few domesticated individuals of greater value. Our evaluations of transactions taking place in public markets indicated the probable over-exploitation of a number of species, and these were often imported from other states and countries. In addition to being illegal, the capture of wild birds can cause serious environmental problems that can only be addressed through public policies directed towards education, monitoring and control, alternative sources of income, wildlife management, and ecosystem conservation.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for the grant awarded to the first author; CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) provided research fellowships to R. R. N. Alves; the Kenney Blumer (Sítio Dez Palmeiras) and Veiga (Pousada Varshana) families for their friendship and shelter; the ornithologists Roberto Otoch and Weber Girão for their valuable information; and the natural biologists Cleiton and Gleidson Lima and our many friends who collaborated in the field work or supplied bibliographic material.

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Correspondence to Rômulo Romeu Nóbrega Alves.

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Fernandes-Ferreira, H., Mendonça, S.V., Albano, C. et al. Hunting, use and conservation of birds in Northeast Brazil. Biodivers Conserv 21, 221–244 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-011-0179-9

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