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Symbolism, Use, and Knowledge of Birds in Tibetan Communities of China

In: Society & Animals
Authors:
Yuanyuan Ji Ethnobiological Research Group, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China Beijing China

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Shuping Zhang Ethnobiological Research Group, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China Beijing China

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Selena Ahmed The Food and Health Lab, Department of Health and Human Development, Montana State University Bozeman, MT USA

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Feifei Li College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China Beijing
Institute of Ecology, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences Beijing China

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Jianqin Li Ethnobiological Research Group, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China
School of Forestry, Southwest Forestry University Kunming China

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Hang Shu Ethnobiological Research Group, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China Beijing China

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Weijuan Huang Ethnobiological Research Group, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China Beijing China

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Guoying Ren School of Ethnology and Sociology, Minzu University of China Beijing China

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Chunlin Long Ethnobiological Research Group, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China Beijing
Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences Kunming China

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6573-6049
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Abstract

Birds are valued in the traditional cultures of Tibetan areas of China for symbolism, spirituality, and medicine. A total of 329 informants from six Tibetan communities were interviewed through ethnobiological survey methods. Results highlight that Tibetan informants value a diversity of birds for multiple symbolic purposes including spirituality, a good harvest, happiness, fortune, beauty, glory, and omens. Over 20 avian species including eagles, crows, pheasants, and red-breasted parakeets were perceived as totems, taboos, and holy birds. Findings revealed that three vulture species (Gyps himalayensis, Gyps fulvus, and Gypaetus barbatus) are the most important avian species because of their sacred roles in celestial burial. A total of 27 bird species were recorded as being used as traditional medicine. The high valuation of birds in Tibetan culture has likely contributed to the transmission of traditional knowledge regarding birds as well as to the conservation of bird biodiversity in the study area.

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