The role of traditional ecological knowledge in identifying trends in environmental change is potentially complicated by the impact environmental and cultural changes may have on knowledge maintenance. This study examines these possibilities in a case study in which traditional knowledge of forest birds was examined in two indigenous Rarámuri communities in southwestern Chihuahua, Mexico—Cabórachi, which had been logged extensively for close to 50 years, and Pino Gordo, which retains unharvested pine-oak forests. Research participants in both communities shared their knowledge of pine-oak (Pinus–Quercus) forest birds by sorting of 105 color bird pictures into those birds they could name in Rarámuri or Spanish, those which they recognized but which had no names, and by offering their observations of changes in bird abundance witnessed over the course of lifetimes. We assessed differences between the communities in these categories and in recognizing birds which the literature indicates as more common within old growth forests. Cabórachi residents were statistically less likely to recognize old-growth associated species and demonstrated lower recognition and naming rates for birds than residents of Pino Gordo. Few small birds receive unique Rarámuri names in either community and species which share the same Rarámuri name in Pino Gordoi often are referred to in Spanish in Cabórachi. Respondents reported changes in abundance for 15 bird species and species groups, along with the presumed sources of those changes, including the overharvest of dead trees, the loss of highland wetlands, and the war on drugs.
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Vol. 37 • No. 4