Birds figure prominently in the traditional knowledge systems of many cultures by virtue of the diverse ways in which humans perceive these creatures, as religious totems, crop pests, food items, sentinels, guides and heralds, to name a few. This preliminary documentation of the traditional ornithological knowledge of the Solega people of southern India discusses the difficulties involved in obtaining a standard set of names that has the consensus of people living in widely dispersed settlements. Solega ways of using bird names in spontaneous speech have implications for theories of ethnobiological nomenclature. A comparison of bird species that are named in Solega, with those that are excluded from their lexicon, challenges some universalist claims concerning ethnotaxonomy. Finally, the ways birds are represented in Solega folklore and traditional ecological knowledge suggest that utilitarian and other cultural concerns, in particular the perceived real or potential interactions between birds and humans, have a significant bearing on Solega bird classification.
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Vol. 32 • No. 2