Open Access

Local knowledge and exploitation of the avian fauna by a rural community in the semi-arid zone of northeastern Brazil

  • Pedro Hudson Rodrigues Teixeira1Email author,
  • Thiago do Nascimento Thel1,
  • Jullio Marques Rocha Ferreira1,
  • Severino Mendes de AzevedoJr1,
  • Wallace Rodrigues Telino Junior1 and
  • Rachel Maria Lyra-Neves1
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine201410:81

https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-10-81

Received: 1 April 2014

Accepted: 10 December 2014

Published: 24 December 2014

Abstract

Background

The present study examined the exploitation of bird species by the residents of a rural community in the Brazilian semi-arid zone, and their preferences for species with different characteristics.

Methods

The 24 informants were identified using the “snowball” approach, and were interviewed using semi-structured questionnaires and check-sheets for the collection of data on their relationship with the bird species that occur in the region. The characteristics that most attract the attention of the interviewees were the song and the coloration of the plumage of a bird, as well as its body size, which determines its potential as a game species, given that hunting is an important activity in the region.

Results

A total of 98 species representing 32 families (50.7% of the species known to occur in the region) were reported during interviews, being used for meat, pets, and medicinal purposes. Three species were used as zootherapeutics – White-naped Jay was eaten whole as a cure for speech problems, the feathers of Yellow-legged Tinamou were used for snakebite, Smooth-billed Ani was eaten for “chronic cough” and Small-billed Tinamou and Tataupa Tinamou used for locomotion problems. The preference of the informants for characteristics such as birdsong and colorful plumage was a significant determinant of their preference for the species exploited. Birds with cynegetic potential and high use values were also among the most preferred species. Despite the highly significant preferences for certain species, some birds, such as those of the families Trochilidae, Thamnophilidae, and Tyrannidae are hunted randomly, independently of their attributes.

Conclusion

The evidence collected on the criteria applied by local specialists for the exploitation of the bird fauna permitted the identification of the species that suffer hunting pressure, providing guidelines for the development of conservation and management strategies that will guarantee the long-term survival of the populations of these bird species in the region.

Keywords

Ethnozoology Ethno-ornithology Hunting Zootherapy

Background

Human beings have always exploited wild animals for a variety of resources, and their relationship with these animals can be observed in the hunting scenes found in ancient rock paintings in South America [1, 2]. In recent years, a scientific discipline, known as Ethnozoology, has been developed to provide a systematic understanding of the different types of interaction between humans and animals [3].

A number of different subsistence traditions can be found in the human populations of the Brazilian semi-arid zone, including hunting-and-gathering strategies. These strategies are supported by empirical knowledge on the most efficient practices for the acquisition and use of natural resources accumulated over many generations [4].

Worldwide, birds represent one of the most important groups of vertebrates that are hunted for food, and have attracted the attention of humans in a number of different ways over recorded history [2]. Birds present a number of characteristics, such as complex vocalizations and vividly-colored plumage, which not only makes them attractive to humans, but also permits the reliable identification of species in the wild [5, 6]. The various interactions between humans and birds, and local knowledge of this fauna are of considerable relevance for the conservation of the avian fauna of a given area, and ethno-ornithology is a fundamentally important tool for the gathering of such information [4, 7, 8].

Studies of the exploitation of wild animals – including birds – by human populations have been conducted in many regions of the world [3, 4, 912], providing information on the diversity of the fauna used and the patterns of exploitation of these animals by traditional rural communities. In addition to subsistence hunting [13, 14] and the raised in captivity of birds for pets and illegal trade, a number of studies have reported the medicinal use of some species [912].

In Brazil, the exploitation of the native fauna is intensified in areas such as the semi-arid Northeast, which has a population of some 28 million inhabitants, many of whom depend on locally-available natural resources, given the adverse environmental conditions found throughout most of the region [4]. In the specific case of the birds, interactions with human populations include subsistence hunting, pets, and illegal trade [8, 1517], in addition to the occasional use of some species for medicinal purposes [4, 1825].

In the Brazilian Northeast, 108,041 wild birds were confiscated from illegal traders by government agencies between 1992 and 2000 [26], far more than in any other part of the country. Birds represent the primary focus of the illegal trade in wild animals in Brazil, representing 82% of the 36,370 animals confiscated in the country in 1999 and 2000. These values reflect the clear impacts on the country’s natural ecosystems. Most of the species captured for the illegal trade are songbirds, in particular emberezids, or have exuberant plumage, such as psittacids, thraupids, and cardinalids [8, 16].

The Araripe National Forest has a diverse avian fauna. Nascimento et al. [27] produced an updated inventory of 193 bird species for the area. Many of the species known to occur in the area present potentially attractive characteristics, such as the seedeater birds (Sporophila spp., Sicalis spp. and Cyanoloxia brissonii), which are songbirds, and in the latter two cases, have exuberant plumage, which is also a characteristic of species such as the tanagers, parakeets and parrots. Some of the region’s bird species are endemic and/or endangered with extinction [28], including those targeted by subsistence hunters, such as the guans and tinamous (Penelope spp. Tinamidae), and illegal traders, in particular the Yellow-faced Siskin (Sporonga yarrellii), but above all, the Araripe Manakin (Antilophia bokermanni), a species that is endemic to the Araripe NF, and is classified as critically endangered [29] due primarily to the loss of habitats.

Given these considerations, the present study focused on the bird fauna of a region in the Brazilian semi-arid zone, with the primary aim of identifying the principal factors that determine the selection of the species exploited by the local residents. The study tests the hypothesis that colorful plumage and attractive birdsong are the principal attributes appreciated by the local informants, and that the species with these attributes and a good hunting potential are the most important to the local community. The study focused on the avian fauna of the Chapada do Araripe, and the principal characteristics used by local hunters as criteria for the selection of birds hunted for game or captured for other uses.

Material and methods

Study area

The Araripe National Forest is a sustainable use conservation unit located within the Araripe Environment Protection Area (APA Araripe) which was created by Brazilian federal decree number 9226/46. The APA Araripe, which is also a sustainable use protected area in the Brazilian semi-arid zone, covers approximately 1,063,000 hectares and was created on August 4th, 1997 [30]. This area includes parts of the Brazilian states of Ceará, Pernambuco, and Piauí.

The Araripe NF is located in the eastern extreme of the Araripe Plateau, including areas of the municipalities of Crato, Barbalha, and Jardim, and is considered to be the first Brazilian national forest [29]. The relief is flat, with a mean altitude of 800 m a.s.l. Mean annual precipitation is 1100 mm, with mean temperatures of between 15°C and 25°C. Vegetation types include seasonal semi-deciduous forest, cerrado savanna, savanna woodland, and scrub [31].The rural community of Macaúba is located within the APA Araripe (Figure 1), in the municipality of Barbalha (Brazilian state of Ceará), some 610 km from the state capital, Fortaleza. The community contains approximately 250 families, and most of the residents are farmers who also harvest plant species occurring naturally within the area of the Araripe NF.
Figure 1

Location of the study area, Macaúba, in the municipality of Barbalha, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará.

Macaúba was selected for the present study based on information provided by local technicians of the federal environment protection agencies (IBAMA and ICMBio) who reported high rates of environmental crime in the region, in particular the hunting and capture of wild animals. In addition, the management plan for the conservation unit refers specifically to the traditional hunting practices of this community [29].

Data collection and analysis

Field trips to Macaúba began with conversations with local residents who could indicate possible specialist informants within the community who were known to exploit wild birds in some way. These initial interviewees included the local public health agents and the president of the Macaúba residents association, individuals who had contact with all the local families. Specialists were the residents known to have the greatest knowledge on the local avian fauna and capture techniques, as well as being proficient hunters of birds. A total of 24 interviews were conducted between September, 2012, May, 2013 and November, 2014.

Following this initial contact with local residents, specialists were identified using the “snowball” technique [32], in which informants are selected through the identification and interviewing of specialists, who are asked to indicate other specialists, who are also interviewed, and so on successively until the names cited begin to be repeated, indicating that further interviews are unnecessary. Preliminary contacts with residents from the Macaúba community indicated the first interviewees, who in turn indicated all other informants. A number of residents hunt and capture animals, although the specific objective of the study was to obtain information on the exploitation of bird species, which led to the discarding of many interviews, given that most informants only referred to the use of mammals, such as deer, agoutis, cats, and monkeys, or no longer practiced hunting. This led to the selection of 24 residents, who constituted the complete sample universe, and were considered to be specialists on the region’s birds and the strategies used to hunt and capture the different species.

The local knowledge of all the informants was also investigated using semi-structured interviews [33] in order to understand the characteristics of the bird species – such as vocalizations or plumage – that determine the specialists’ preferences or choices, based on their knowledge and experience of the region’s avian fauna. All the interviews were recorded with the consent of the informants.

Each interviewee was informed a priori of the objectives of the research and asked to sign a standard informed consent form. The present study was approved by the Brazilian System for the Inventory and Authorization of National Biodiversity (SISBIO) under license number 30533–2, as well as the Ethics in Research Committee of the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco (Protocol CAAE 08413112.5.0000.5207).

At the end of each interview, the informant was invited to review a check-sheet of photographs showing bird species known to occur in the region [27], as well as seven species that are not found in the study area, which were used as a control for the evaluation of the reliability of the information provided in the interviews. The informants were asked to point to the species they hunted for meat, raised for captivity or used for medicinal purposes.

A use-value or UV [34] was calculated for each bird species, providing an index of relative importance of the species to the local human population. The UV score is calculated for a species is given by UV = ΣU/n, where ΣU = the species was cited by an informant (for one or both uses) and n = the total number of informants.

Results

Two categories of exploitation were identified. One was hunting for game meat or medicinal purposes and the other, capture for pets. Fifteen of the informants reported exploiting birds for both game and pets, seven reported hunting for game, six for medicinal purposes, and three for pets. Based on the check-sheets, the informants confirmed using 97 species belonging to 30 families, which represent 33.5% of the bird species known to occur in the Araripe NF (Table 1).
Table 1

Bird species cited by the informants interviewed at Macaúba, Barbalha, Ceará, northeastern Brazil

Family

Species

Brazilian common name

Local common name

Use

Total

UV

    

Game

Pets

  

Tinamidae

Crypturellus noctivagus

Yellow-legged Tinamou

Zabelê

8

 

8

0.33

 

Crypturellus parvirostris

Small-billed Tinamou

Nambu

15

 

15

0.63

 

Crypturellus tataupa

Tataupa Tinamou

Nambu

16

 

16

0.70

 

Nothura maculosa

Spotted Nothura

Corduniz

12

 

12

0.50

Cracidae

Penelope superciliaris

Rusty-margined Guan

Jacu

18

3

21

0.90

Accipitridae

Rupornis magnirostris

Roadside Hawk

Gavião

3

 

3

0.12

Columbidae

Columbina minuta

Plain-breasted Ground-Dove

Rolinha

5

1

6

0.25

 

Columbina talpacoti

Ruddy Ground-Dove

Rolinha- caldo-de-feijão

7

1

8

0.33

 

Columbina squammata

Scaled Dove

Fogo-apagou

4

5

9

0.37

 

Columbina picui

Picui Ground-Dove

Rolinha

8

 

8

0.33

 

Claravis pretiosa

Blue Ground-Dove

Rola-azul

3

 

3

0.12

 

Leptotila verreauxi

White-tipped Dove

Juriti

10

1

11

0.45

Cuculidae

Piaya cayana

Squirrel Cuckoo

Alma-de-gato

2

 

2

0.08

 

Crotophaga ani

Smooth-billed Ani

Anu-preto

3

 

3

0.12

 

Guira guira

Guira Cuckoo

Anu-branco

1

 

1

0.04

 

Tapera naevia

Striped Cuckoo

Saci

1

 

1

0.04

Strigidae

Glaucidium brasilianum

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

Caboré

1

 

1

0.04

Nyctibiidae

Nyctibius griseus

Common Potoo

Mãe-da-lua

2

 

2

0.08

Caprimulgidae

Hydropsalis albicollis

Pauraque

Corujinha

3

 

3

0.12

Trochilidae

Anopetia gounellei

Broad-tipped Hermit

 

1

 

1

0.04

 

Phaethornis pretrei

Planalto Hermit

 

2

 

2

0.08

 

Eupetomena macroura

Swallow-tailed Hummingbird

Tesorão

4

 

4

0.16

 

Thalurania watertonii

Long-tailed Woodnymph

Bizunguinha

1

 

1

0.04

 

Amazilia fimbriata

Glittering-throated Emerald

Bizunga

4

 

4

0.16

Trogonidae

Trogon curucui

Blue-crowned Trogon

Cizuda

2

 

2

0.08

Galbulidae

Galbula ruficauda

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Fura-barreira

2

 

2

0.08

Picidae

Veniliornis passerines

Little Woodpecker

Picapauzinho

1

 

1

0.04

 

Piculus chrysochloros

Golden-green Woodpecker

Pica-pau

2

 

2

0.08

 

Celeus flavescens

Blond-crested Woodpecker

Pica-pau-amarelo

2

 

2

0.08

Cariamidae

Cariama cristata

Red-legged Seriema

Sariema

5

1

6

0.25

Falconidae

Falco femoralis

Aplomado Falcon

Gavião

 

1

1

0.04

Psittacidae

Eupsittula cactorum

Cactus Parakeet

Ganguirro

 

11

11

0.45

 

Forpus xanthopterygius

Blue-winged Parrotlet

Pancu

1

2

3

0.12

 

Amazona aestiva

Blue-fronted Parrot

Papagaio

3

1

4

0.16

Thamnophilidae

Myrmorchilus strigilatus

Stripe-backed Antbird

Piu-piu

5

 

5

0.20

 

Formicivora grisea

White-fringed Antwren

Papa-formiga

5

 

5

0.20

 

Formicivora melanogaster

Black-bellied Antwren

Papa-formiga

4

 

4

0.16

 

Dysithamnus mentalis

Plain Antvireo

 

1

 

1

0.04

 

Herpsilochmus atricapillus

Black-capped Antwren

 

2

 

2

0.08

 

Herpsilochmus longirostris

Large-billed Antwren

Chapeuzinho

3

 

3

0.12

 

Sakesphorus cristatus

Silvery-cheeked Antshrike

Farinheiro

7

 

7

0.29

 

Thamnophilus capistratus

Caatinga Antshrike

Rajado

10

 

10

0.41

 

Thamnophilus torquatus

Rufous-winged Antshrike

 

4

 

4

0.16

 

Thamnophilus punctatus

Northern Slaty-Antshrike

 

4

 

4

0.16

 

Taraba major

Great Antshrike

Chorró-olho-de-fogo

5

 

5

0.20

Scleruridae

Sclerurus scansor

Rufous-breasted Leaftosser

Vira-folha

1

  

0.04

Dendrocolaptidae

Lepidocolaptes angustirostris

Narrow-billed Woodcreeper

Arapaçu

1

 

1

0.04

Furnariidae

Phacellodomus rufifrons

Rufous-fronted Thornbird

João-graveteiro

1

 

1

0.04

Tityridae

Myiobius atricaudus

Black-tailed Flycatcher

 

2

 

2

0.08

Rhynchocyclidae

Leptopogon amaurocephalus

Sepia-capped Flycatcher

 

1

 

1

0.04

 

Hemitriccus margaritaceiventer

Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant

Relojinho

1

 

1

0.04

Tyrannidae

Euscarthmus meloryphus

Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant

Doidinha

2

 

2

0.08

 

Elaenia flavogaster

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

Doidinha

1

 

1

0.04

 

Elaenia parvirostris

Small-billed Elaenia

Doidinha

1

 

1

0.04

 

Elaenia mesoleuca

Olivaceous Elaenia

Doidinha

3

 

3

0.12

 

Elaenia cristata

Plain-crested Elaenia

Doidinha

3

 

3

0.12

 

Elaenia chiriquensis

Lesser Elaenia

Doidinha

4

 

4

0.16

 

Myiopagis caniceps

Gray Elaenia

 

1

 

1

0.04

 

Myiopagis viridicata

Greenish Elaenia

 

1

 

1

0.04

 

Legatus leucophaius

Piratic Flycatcher

 

3

 

3

0.12

 

Myiarchus swainsoni

Swainson’s Flycatcher

Cacuruta

3

 

3

0.12

 

Myiarchus ferox

Short-crested Flycatcher

 

5

 

5

0.20

 

Myiarchus tyrannulus

Brown-crested Flycatcher

 

5

 

5

0.20

 

Pitangus sulphuratus

Great Kiskadee

Bem-ti-vi

1

 

1

0.04

 

Myiodynastes maculates

Streaked Flycatcher

Rajado

12

 

12

0.50

 

Megarynchus pitangua

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Neinei

2

 

2

0.08

 

Tyrannus melancholicus

Tropical Kingbird

Burraiera

3

 

3

0.12

 

Empidonomus varius

Variegated Flycatcher

Sujinha

9

 

9

0.37

 

Myiophobus fasciatus

Bran-colored Flycatcher

 

2

 

2

0.08

 

Cnemotriccus fuscatus

Fuscous Flycatcher

 

1

 

1

0.04

 

Lathrotriccus euleri

Euler’s Flycatcher

 

2

 

2

0.08

Corvidae

Cyanocorax cyanopogon

White-naped Jay

Cancão

6

7

13

0.54

Polioptilidae

Polioptila plumbea

Tropical Gnatcatcher

 

1

 

1

0.04

Turdidae

Turdus rufiventris

Rufous-bellied Thrush

Sabiá-laranjeira

 

4

4

0.16

 

Turdus leucomelas

Pale-breasted Thrush

Sabiá-branca

1

6

7

0.29

 

Turdus amaurochalinus

Creamy-bellied Thrush

Sabiá-bico-de-osso

3

5

8

0.33

 

Turdus albicollis

White-necked Thrush

Sabiá-coleira

 

1

1

0.04

Mimidae

Mimus saturninus

Chalk-browed Mockingbird

Sabiá-conga

1

 

1

0.04

Thraupidae

Coereba flaveola

Bananaquit

Cambacica

1

 

1

0.04

 

Lanio pileatus

Pileated Finch

Abre-e-fecha

 

3

3

0.12

 

Lanio cucullatus

Red-crested Finch

Abre-e-fecha

 

1

1

0.04

 

Tangara sayaca

Sayaca Tanager

Sanhaçu

3

2

2

0.08

 

Tangara palmarum

Palm Tanager

Sanhaçu-coqueiro

1

1

2

0.08

 

Tangara cayana

Burnished-buff Tanager

Saíra-amarela

2

2

4

0.16

 

Paroaria dominicana

Red-cowled Cardinal

Cabeça-vermelha

 

8

8

0.33

 

Dacnis cayana

Blue Dacnis

Sanhaçu-azul

 

1

1

0.04

 

Schistochlamys ruficapillus

Cinnamon Tanager

  

1

1

0.04

 

Zonotrichia capensis

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Tico-tico

1

3

4

0.16

 

Sicalis flaveola

Saffron Finch

Canário-verdadeiro

 

12

12

0.50

 

Sporophila lineola

Lined Seedeater

Bigodeiro

 

4

4

0.16

 

Sporophila albogularis

White-throated Seedeater

Golinha

 

5

5

0.20

 

Sporophila nigricollis

Yellow-bellied Seedeater

Bico-de-prata

 

5

5

0.20

Cardinalidae

Cyanoloxia brissonii

Ultramarine Grosbeak

Azulão

 

4

4

0.16

Icteridae

Icterus pyrrhopterus

Variable Oriole

Viana

 

3

3

0.12

 

Icterus jamacaii

Campo Troupial

Sofreu ou Sofrê

 

4

4

0.16

Fringillidae

Sporagra yarrellii

Yellow-faced Siskin

Pintasilva

 

1

1

0.04

 

Euphonia chlorotica

Purple-throated Euphonia

Vim-vim

 

1

1

0.04

UV = Use Value. Nomenclature based on CBRO. In bold type: species characterized by their high use value.

The song was the characteristic most mentioned by the interviewees, being cited by all the informants, followed by colorful plumage, mentioned by 14 informants. Almost all the informants referred to the potential of the birds as game. It was possible to confirm that the interviewees generally based their selection of bird species on characteristics judged to be attractive. Regarding the use of meat for consumption, the species that had the VU > 0.30, 16 (62,5%) have hunting potential. However, 64 (95,3%) species with hunting potential had the VU <0.30.

The most important game species belong to five families – the Tinamidae (Crypturellus parvirostris with 15 reports and C. tataupa with 16), Cracidae (Penelope superciliaris, n = 21 reports), Columbidae (Columbina picui, n = 8; Leptotila verreauxi, n = 11), Thamnophilidae (Sakesphorus cristatus, n = 7; Thamnophilus capistratus, n = 10), and the Tyrannidae (Myiodinastes maculatus, n = 12; Empidonomus varius, n = 9). Species of five families were also the most often cited for pets – Psittacidae (Eupsittula cactorum, n = 11), Corvidae (Cyanocorax cyanopogon, n = 5), Thraupidae (Paroaria dominicana, n = 8; Sicalis flaveola, n = 12) and Cardinalidae (Cyanoloxia brissonii, n = 4). A selection of the bird species used for game and captivity (some of which were observed in the residences of some of the interviewees) are shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2

Some of the bird species captured by residents of Macaúba, Barbalha, Ceará for their meat: A – Leptotila verreauxi ; B - Penelope superciliaris ; C - Thamnophilus capistratus ; D - Paroaria dominicana ; E - Sicalis flaveola ; F – Eupsittula cactorum ; G – Cyanocorax cyanopogon ; H – Cyanoloxia brissonii ; I – Crotophaga ani .

Another relevant finding is that species such as the Blue-fronted Parrot (Amazona aestiva), a parrot popular as a pet, and the Roadside hawk (Rupornis magnirostris) were cited as game species. In fact, the informants who reported this practice confirmed that they would hunt as game any bird they encountered in the wild, “when we go out to hunt, we’ll kill any bird that crosses our path”.

Six of the 24 interviewees confirmed that they used five species of bird for medicinal purposes. One informant reported using the White-naped Jay (C. cyanopogon) (Figure 2G) as a cure for speech problems – “I used the bird to help my brother speak – he hadn’t spoken for three years”. Two specimens were captured and cooked without salt before being consumed by the patient, who “was speaking after just a few days”, according to the informant. Another informant reported that speech problems could be solved easily by removing the head of a live jay and drying it being hanging it from the child’s neck. Two informants referred to the use of an infusion of the feathers of the Yellow-legged Tinamou (Crypturellus noctivagus) as a cure for snakebite, in which case, they “burn the feathers, take the ash and put it in some drinking water”.

The Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani) (Figure 2I) is used for the treatment of “chronic cough”, for which the bird is also consumed after being cooked without salt. Another way of using this species for the treatment of asthma, according to a different informant, is to roast the animal until it has turned into “powder” and feed this substance to the patient without their knowledge.

Both species of tinamous (Crypturellus parvirostris and Crypturellus tataupa) were cited by one informant for the treatment of children with walking difficulties. The treatment consisted of cutting off the bird’s feet and drying them before hanging them around the neck of the child. This treatment was explained by the fact that the chicks of these species are able to run as soon as they hatch.

Discussion

In a study of the illegal trade in wild birds in the semi-arid zone of the Brazilian state of Paraíba, Barbosa et al. [8] recorded a preference for the raised bird with the most attractive songs and coloration. This preference was also observed in the present study, where the majority of the informants interviewed at Macaúba confirmed that the plumage and song are the characteristics that most attract their attention in wild birds, supporting the hypothesis that the selection of species by the informants was motivated primarily by attributes considered by them to be attractive. The potential of the birds as game species is also taken into consideration, and the species with the highest UV scores, which have a high hunting potential, were the most frequently cited overall by the informants.

All the informants from Macaúba indicated that a bird’s song was the characteristic that most attracted their attention, followed by the color of the plumage, indicating that they appreciate these attributes. Despite this, hunting game to supplement the diet is the primary use of birds by the informants, a situation similar to that found in previous studies, such as those of Bezerra et al. [2], Mendonça et al. [4], Barbosa et al. [8] and Souza and Alves [17]. However, this is the opposite of the pattern found by Albuquerque et al. [35] and Alves et al. [36], who recorded raised birds in captivity as the primary use of the bird fauna in other areas of the Brazilian semi-arid zone, which may be related to the raised for food to complement the diet at the site of the present study. An additional characteristic of the present study was the captivity of songbirds and other species as personal pets rather than for commercial reasons or the illegal trade in wild animals.

One of the game species cited in the present study, with high use value, was Leptotila verreauxi. Similar bird (Leptotila rufaxilla) was also reported as a game species in Sierra Nanchititla, Mexico [9], indicating similarities in the preference for game species between countries.

The informants from Macaúba presented a marked preference for certain types of species for pets, in particular psittacids, corvids, thraupids. Others such as tinamids, columbids, and tyrannids were used for food. These findings are similar to those of Bezerra et al. [2], Mendonça et al. [4], Barbosa et al. [8], Pagano et al. [26] and Santos-Fita and Costa-Neto [37]. However, one family cited as use for food by many informants (Thamnophilidae) has not been recorded in previous ethno-ornithological studies, and the hunting of these species may be a local tradition.

Only three specialists reported using birds for medicinal purposes, possibly because these animals are rarely used for this purpose in general. However, this practice may represent a local tradition, handed down over the generations, as observed by Bezerra et al. [21]. The therapeutic use of one of the three species cited in the present study – C. cyanopogon – has also been recorded at a number of other Brazilian localities [14, 24, 38]. In Bahia state, Costa-Neto [39] recorded the medicinal use of all three species cited in the present study. In two of these cases, only the feathers were exploited – those of C. cyanopongon for neurological problems, and of C. noctivagus for cases of epilepsy. The smooth-billed anu (C. ani) is used in two ways – the bird is eaten whole as a treatment for morning sickness and its blood is taken as a cure for asthma (unspecified). Ferreira et al. [38] also recorded the use of C. ani feathers for the treatment of asthma in Crato, Ceará.

The results of the present study not only corroborate those of these previous studies, but provide evidence of variations in practices. Rather than using the feathers, for example, C. cyanopogon was cooked without salt and eaten whole for the treatment of a speech impediment, whereas C. ani was eaten whole as a cure for “chronic cough”. The feathers of C. noctivagus were used at Macaúba, but as a treatment for snakebite. This study represents the first published report of the zootherapeutic use of C. parvirostris and C. tataupa for the treatment of children with walking difficulties. Importantly, much of the use of birds as zooterapics is related to popular belief the region.

Conclusions

The results of the present study indicated that songbirds and other species with colorful plumage most attracted the attention of local residents, and are frequently captured for pets. However, game species are the primary objective of hunting activities.

The species targeted most frequently both for hutting and pets were the most attractive in terms of their plumage, song and/or meat. A number of the species identified in this study were recorded for these uses for the first time.

The evidence recorded for the medicinal use of birds in the Brazilian semi-arid zone is an important contribution to the study of zootherapy, which has important implications for conservation biology, public health policies, and the sustainable management of natural resources. Obviously, further studies are required in order to determine whether the treatments do in fact have any medicinal properties. If there is no scientific proof, the evidence should be used to discourage the exploitation of the species for this purpose.

Declarations

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the Biodiversity and Local Knowledge Research Network (REBISA) and the Pernambuco State Science and Research Foundation (FACEPE) for financing the project Research Nucleus in Ecology, Conservation, and the Potential Use of Biological Resources in the Semi-Arid Zone of the Brazilian Northeast (APQ-1264-2.05/10), coordinated by Professor Ulysses Paulino de Albuquerque. We would especially like to thank all the residents of Macaúba who kindly shared their knowledge of the local fauna with us.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Departamento de Biologia, Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco – UFRPE, Rua Dom Manoel de Medeiros

References

  1. Alves RRN, Souto W: Ethnozoology in Brazil: current status and perspectives. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2011, 7: 22-10.1186/1746-4269-7-22.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bezerra DMM, Aaraújo HFP, Alves RRN: Captura de aves silvestres no semiárido brasileiro: técnicas cinegéticas e implicações para conservação. Trop Conserv Sci. 2012, 5, 1: 50-66.Google Scholar
  3. Alves RRN, Souto W: Etnozoologia: Conceitos, Considerações Históricas e Importância. A Etnozoologia no Brasil: Importância, Status Atual e Perspectivas. Edited by: Alves RRN, Souto WMS, Mourão JS. 2010, Recife: NUPPEA, 19-40.Google Scholar
  4. Mendonça LET, Barbosa JAA, Alves RRN: Uso da Fauna em Comunidades Rurais do Município de Pocinhos, Paraíba, Brasil: uma Abordagem Etnoecológica. Congresso de Ecologia do Brasil, 9. 2009, São Lourenço-MG: AnaisGoogle Scholar
  5. Pacheco JF: Tangara – gênero de uns, ainda que nome vulgar de outros!. Tangara. 2001, 1: 5-11.Google Scholar
  6. Figueiredo LFA: Nomes populares das aves brasileiras. Atualidades Ornitológicas. 2002, 110: 5-Google Scholar
  7. Cadima CI, Marçal-Júnior O: Nota sobre etnoornitologia na comunidade de Distrito Rural de Miraponga, Uberlândia, MG. Biosci J. 2004, 20: 81-91.Google Scholar
  8. Barbosa JAA, Nóbrega VA, Aalves RRN: Aspectos da caça e comércio ilegal da avifauna silvestre por populações tradicionais do semi-árido paraibano. Revista de Biologia e Ciências da Terra. 2010, 2: 39-49.Google Scholar
  9. Monroy-Vilchis O: Uso tradicional de vertebrados silvestres em La Sierra Nanchititla, México. Interciencia. 2008, 33: 308-313.Google Scholar
  10. Whiting MJ, Williams VL, Hibbitts TJ: Animals traded for traditional medicine at the Faraday market in South Africa: species diversity and conservation implications. J Zool. 2011, 284: 84-96. 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2010.00784.x.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  11. Still J: Use of animal products in traditional Chinese medicine: environmental impact and health hazards. Complement Ther Med. 2003, 11: 118-122. 10.1016/S0965-2299(03)00055-4.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Kakati LN, Ao B, Doulo V: Indigenous knowledge of zootherapeutic Use of vertebrate origin by the Ao tribe of Nagaland. J Hum Ecol. 2006, 3: 163-167.Google Scholar
  13. Alves RRN, Gonçalves MBR, Vieira WLS: Caça, uso e conservação de vertebrados no semiárido Brasileiro. J Trop Conserv Sci. 2012, 5, 3: 394-416.Google Scholar
  14. Alves RRN, Mendonça LET, Confessor MVA, Vieira WLS, Lopez LCS: Hunting strategies used in the semi-arid region of northeastern Brazil. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2009, 5: 1-16. 10.1186/1746-4269-5-1.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Rocha MSP, Cavalcanti PCM, Sousa RL, Alves RRN: Aspectos da comercialização ilegal de aves nas feiras livres de Campina Grande, Paraíba, Brasil. Revista de Biologia e Ciências da Terra. 2006, 6: 204-226.Google Scholar
  16. Gama TP, Sassi R: Aspectos do comércio ilegal de pássaros silvestres na cidade de João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brasil. Gaia Scientia. 2008, 2: 1-20.Google Scholar
  17. Souza JB, Alves RRN: Hunting and wildlife use in an Atlantic Forest remnant of northeastern Brazil. Trop Conserv Sci. 2014, 7: 145-160.Google Scholar
  18. Benítez G: Animals used for medicinal and magico-religious purposes in western Granada Province, Andalusia (Spain). J Ethnopharmacol. 2011, 137: 1113-1123. 10.1016/j.jep.2011.07.036.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Ferreira FS, Albuquerque UP, Coutinho HDM, Almeida WO, Alves RRN: The trade in medicinal animals in northeastern brazil. Evid Based Complement Altern Med. 2012, 2012: 1-20.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  20. Alves RRN, Oliveira TPR, Rosa IL: Wild animals used as food medicine in brazil. Evid Based Complement Altern Med. 2013, 2013: 1-12.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  21. Bezerra DMA, Helder F, Alves AG, Alves RRN: Birds and people in semiarid northeastern Brazil: symbolic and medicinal relationships. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2013, 9: 3-10.1186/1746-4269-9-3.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Silva MLV, Alves AGC, Almeida AV: A zooterapia no Recife (Pernambuco): uma articulação entre as práticas e a história. Biotemas. 2004, 17: 95-116.Google Scholar
  23. Alves RRN, Rosa IL: Zootherapy goes to town: the use of animal-base remedies in urban areas of NE and Brazil. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007, 113: 541-555. 10.1016/j.jep.2007.07.015.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Alves RNN, Lima HN, Tavares MC, Souto WMS, Barboza RRD, Vasconcellos A: Animal-based remedies as complementary medicines in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe, Brazil. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2008, 8: 1-9. 10.1186/1472-6882-8-1.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  25. Souto WMS, Mourão JS, Barboza RRD, Alves RRN: Parallels between zootherapeutic practices in ethnoveterinary and human complementary medicine in northeastern Brazil. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011, 134: 753-767. 10.1016/j.jep.2011.01.041.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Pagano ISA, Sousa AEBA, Wagner PGC, Ramos RTC: Aves depositadas no Centro de Triagem de animais silvestres do IBAMA na Paraíba: uma amostra do tráfico de aves silvestres no estado. Ornithologia. 2009, 3: 132-144.Google Scholar
  27. Nascimento JLX, Nascimento ILS, Azevedo Júnior SM: Aves da Chapada do Araripe (Brasil): biologia e conservação. Ararajuba. 2000, 8: 115-125.Google Scholar
  28. Ministério Do Meio Ambiente – MMA: Lista da fauna brasileira ameaçada de extinção. Instrução Normativa do Ministério do Meio Ambiente n° 03/2003, Diário Oficial da União n° 101. Seção. 2003, 1: 88-97.Google Scholar
  29. Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Renováveis – IBAMA: Plano de manejo da Floresta Nacional do Araripe. 2004, Brasília, DF: Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais RenováveisGoogle Scholar
  30. Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Renováveis – IBAMA: Área de Proteção Ambiental da Chapada do Araripe. http://br.viarural.com,
  31. Ribeiro-Silva S, Medeiros MB, Gomes BM, Seixas ENC, Silva MAP: Angiosperms from the Araripe national forest, Ceará, brazil. Checklist 8. 2012, 4: 744-751.Google Scholar
  32. Albuquerque UP, Lucena RFP, Alencar N: Métodos e Técnicas para coleta de dados etnobiológicos. Métodos e Técnicas na Pesquisa Etnobiológica e Etnoecológica. Edited by: Albuquerque UP, Lucena RFP, Cunha LVFC. 2010, Recife: NUPEEA, 39-64.Google Scholar
  33. Albuquerque UP, Lucena RFP, Lins Neto EMF: Seleção dos Participantes da Pesquisa. Métodos e Técnicas na Pesquisa Etnobiológica e Etnoecológica. Edited by: Albuquerque UP, Lucena RFP, Cunha LVFC. 2010, Recife: NUPEEA, 21-36.Google Scholar
  34. Silva AV, Nascimento VT, Soldati GB, Medeiros MFT, Albuquerque UP: Técnicas Para Análise de Dados Etnobiológicos. Métodos e Técnicas na Pesquisa Etnobiológica e Etnoecológica. Edited by: Albuquerque UP, Lucena RFP, Cunha LVFC. 2010, Recife: NUPEEA, 187-206.Google Scholar
  35. Albuquerque UP, Araújo EL, El-Deir ACA, Lima ALA, Souto A, Bezerra BM, Ferraz EMN, Freire EMX, Sampaio EVSB, Las-Casas FMG, Moura GJB, Pereira GA, Melo JG, Ramos MA, Rodal MJN, Schiel N, Lyra-Neves RM, Alves RRN, Azevedo-Júnior SM, Telino Júnior WR, Severi W: Caatinga revisited: ecology and conservation of an important seasonal dry forest. Sci World J. 2012, 205182: 1-18.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  36. Alves RRN, Leite RCL, Souto WMS, Bezerra DMM, Loures-Ribeiro A: Ethno-ornithology and conservation of wild birds in the semi-arid Caatinga of northeastern Brazil. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2013, 9: 14-10.1186/1746-4269-9-14.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Santos-Fita D, Costa-Neto EM: As interações entre os seres humanos e os animais: a contribuição da etnozoologia. Biotemas. 2007, 4: 99-110.Google Scholar
  38. Ferreira FS, Brito SV, Ribeiro SC, Almeida WO, Alves RRN: Zootherapeutics utilized by residents of the community PoçoDantas, Crato-CE, Brazil. Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2009, 5: 1-10. 10.1186/1746-4269-5-1.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  39. Costa-Neto EM: A zooterapia popular no Estado da Bahia: registro de novas espécies animais utilizadas como recursos medicinais. Cien Saude Colet. 2011, 16: 1639-1650.View ArticleGoogle Scholar

Copyright

© Teixeira et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2014

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.