An appetite for connection: why we need to understand the effect and value of feeding wild birds
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Birds and people have had a long and passionate relationship of great depth and complexity. Beyond utilitarian uses such as providing food and feathers, birds feature in the religious, ceremonial and spiritual dimensions of many societies. Many are revered as totems and gods, feared as spirits and demonic messengers, and valued as symbols and exemplars (Sax 2007; Weidensaul 2007). More prosaically, huge numbers of people, from all walks of life throughout the world, seek birds, not to worship or hunt but ‘simply’ to watch. Bird watching appears to be the largest nature-based pastime in the world and the number of participants continues to increase (Jones and Buckley 2001, Cordell and Herbert 2002). The ubiquity and scale of this activity has lead to considerable research attention, with environmental psychologists exploring knowledge of birds as indicators of ecological awareness, resource economists and tourism researchers revealing the scale and significance of bird-watching as an industry, while sociologists expand on the cultural meanings of birds in different settings (see e.g. Rhode and Kendell 1994; Shultz 2000; Birkhead 2008; Green and Jones 2010).
© 2011 CSIRO. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.