Going to the Birds: Animals as Things and Beings in Early Modernity

Marcy Norton


Let us compare a hawk trained for falconry and a chicken raised as poultry.1 In early modern Europe, people believed, approached, and celebrated the beingness of the hawk, its identity as a noble, collaborative predator. On the other hand, avian husbandry was organized around chickens as things (edible flesh, useful feathers) and as producers of things (eggs). Hunting and husbandry can be thought of as meta-structures, or what I term ‘modes of interaction,’ that emphasize, respectively, the beingness and thingness of animals. We find rather different circumstances in pre-Hispanic America, where there were practices and beliefs around animals in which thingness and beingness constituted one another. In Caribbean, Amazonian, and Mesoamerican societies, predation and adoption operated as modes of interaction that existed on a continuum of incorporation: one took on the attributes of a consumed animal or one made it into a family and community member. The eagle’s awesome ferocity and predatorial acumen manifested in its feathers; accordingly, a human ritually outfitted in eagle feathers embodied these qualities. Baby parrots were taken from their nests and became adopted kin.

This is a micro-global history of avian—human relationships with two nested objectives. The first is to demonstrate how modes of interaction produce particular subjectivities; in other words, to identify and investigate the contexts in which humans relate to birds as vassals, foodstuff, marvels, sacred beings, kin, and, finally, pets. The second is to explore how the entanglement of the cultures of Native America and Europe, inaugurated by Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, mutually affected European and Amerindian modes of interaction. In particular, this chapter will focus on the transmission of Amerindian featherworks and parrots into Europe.2

This chapter develops and builds as a key concept ‘modes of interaction,’ meta-structures that organize how people relate to and think about animals. These modes are composed of entrenched customs, patterns of behavior, and institutions. These modes do a lot of work: among other things, they create categories of participants, produce knowledge, and structure relationships between and among different species of animals. In particular, they condition the kind of subjectivity ascribed to the different animal participants; as we will see, the subjectivity of the nameless chicken is very different from that of the cherished hawk. Ontologically, modes of interaction possess the determining power of other structures such as gender, so that they organize production and ideology but are also circumvented, defied, and transgressed.3

Birds in Europe

As modes of interaction, hunting and husbandry were the meta-structures that organized human—animal relationships in Europe over millennia. Elite hunting, defined as the chase and slaughter of prey, consisted of two main types: venery and falconry, the former with the assistance of horses and dogs and the latter with the assistance of raptors (as well as dogs and horses in many cases). In husbandry, animals provided labor (for plowing fields, providing security, transporting goods and people, etc.), became materials (meat, hides, feathers, tallow), and interfered with production (the wolf who dined on a sheep, the cat who snared a chicken). Hunting was defined as a noble activity, serving as preparation and proxy for war, where husbandry was plebian, the direct involvement with laboring and livestock animals being only fit for the third estate. Despite varied political formations and ecological and social changes, these structures manifested fundamental continuity across time (the medieval and early modern periods) and commonalities across space (Western Europe).


Falconry was a subset of elite hunting practices that spanned Eurasia for centuries.4 Falconry likely originated in Mesopotamia several centuries BCE, arrived in Western Europe with the Celts or Goths via the Balkans, and began to flourish with the elite Muslim influence in the wake of the Crusades and the Christian reconquista of Muslim Iberia. Falconry, then and now, involves three stages. First, raptors were captured in the wild, either as ‘nestlings’ or young adults, often lured with prey such as a pigeon and then seized in nets. The captured birds belonged to an array of different species of falcons and hawks, and it was prestigious to have diverse kinds and numerous birds in one’s mews. Particularly fashionable in the medieval and early modern period were birds procured from northernmost regions of Europe such as Norway and Ireland; the birds could be bought by agents or arrived as gifts.5 Hawks were among the prized gifts that traveled among diplomatic channels throughout Eurasia. Second, after being caught, the birds had to become ‘manned’ (also called ‘reclaimed’ or amansado) or made comfortable and familiar with human company. To accomplish this, birds were deprived of sight by having their eyes temporarily sewn shut or covered by a hood, and over a period of time (often as long as a year), the birds were hand-fed, usually by one handler alone, so that what we now call ‘pair-bonding’ could take place between bird and human. Third, after being tamed, the raptors were trained to kill and retrieve live prey (many kinds of birds — among them partridges, pheasants, herons, storks, swans, cranes, and geese — but also small mammals6) and return to their handlers with their quarry. The professional falconers who tended to raptors were key staff in royal and noble households/

The ideology of elite hunting in Europe insisted on two things: that it offered training for war and that it was a noble leisure pursuit. It was distinguished from the hunting of commoners, pursued for ignoble purposes such as obtaining food (noble hunters would eat their prey, but that was not the reason that they hunted). In the words of the noble author of a Spanish-hawking treatise, ‘the exercise of war is nothing to the knight who is a practitioner of this hunt.’8 Hunting in general and falconry in particular reflected and promoted the neofeudal legitimacy of the aristocracy by naturalizing might as a legitimate source of power; the strong overpowering the weak is naturalized in hunting and so legitimated in war.

Hunting produced categories of participants: namely the lords (the chief hunters), the vassals, and the enemies. Vassals included humans (professional huntsmen, kennel keepers, hired falconers) and non-humans: the horses, dogs, and birds who collaborated in the pursuit, capture, and slaying of the prey. I term these animals ‘vassals’ because the language of the hunt figured them as faithful dependents, hierarchically below the human hunters (though not necessarily below the boys who cleaned the kennels and mews, etc.), and owing them obedience, but bound to them through mutual bonds of service. It is hard to overemphasize the prestige and value of animals who assisted in the hunt (Figure 2.1). Birds employed in falconry, and dogs and horses bred for hunting, enjoyed a status in many ways superior to humans of lower classes.9 Like the other vassal animals, raptors were recipients of expensive diets, fine living quarters, and intensive training. It was advised that if one purchased one’s raptor from a ‘rustic,’ one should be sure that it was not being fed from the customary, inferior meat of peasants, which would hazard the hawk’s health. This suggests that hawks in captivity consumed a more expensive diet than did human ‘rustics.’10

Hunting ascribed a subjectivity of vassalage that encompassed the birds of prey employed in falconry. This subjectivity was produced by the emphasis on individuality, collaboration, and the merger between self and other that falconry produced. Falconers such as the seventeenth-century Simon Latham insisted on their birds’ individuality:

all Hawkes be not alike in their disposition, but are of contrary natures, and therefore will require great and diligent attendance, and skill to finde out their properties: and the same being perfectly knowne, you may order your Hawke accordingly.11

Latham not only took for granted that each hawk had her or his own character, but that it was the responsibility of the falconer to study his raptor,

Fra Angelico School, Pope Clement V on horseback with a hawk on his fist, riding away from a female saint

Figure 2.1 Fra Angelico School, Pope Clement V on horseback with a hawk on his fist, riding away from a female saint (the Holy Church), 1402—1455. This drawing illustrates how a hawk, as well as a horse, contributes to the dignity of the papal potentate and how the man and his animals blend their bodily space.

Source: Fra Angelico School, Pope Clement V on horseback with a hawk on his fist, riding away from a female saint (the Holy Church), 1402—1455, British Museum, pen and ink, 16 x 15.5 cm. © Trustees of the British Museum.

as the individual personality emerged only over time, not instantly on first sight.12 In contemporary terms, we might call this ‘anthropomorphism,’ but another way of understanding this is to see it (rightly or wrongly) as the attribution of fellow subject status to another being. The individuality of hawks was also recognized through naming practices; for instance, the Castilian grandee Pedro López de Ayala, author of a fifteenth-century falconry treatise, mentioned a barbary falcon named Botafuego (Fireboot), who despite his diminutive size, was renowned for his ability to kill a crane without any assistance.13

Vassalage depended on and organized the mutual engagement of humans and animals, and hunting depended on the cooperation of non-human animals for success. Hunters fully recognized the agency of both their vassals and prey, underscored by the insistence that mutual affection was the foundation for animal—human collaboration. In English falconry manuals, the language of love is most pronounced. According to Latham, the only way for

those kind of wilde Creatures to be at his command and familiar with him, that by nature and kinde are altogether shye and fearfull of him, [is that] he must... draw and win them by his continuall loving and courteous behavior towards them, in his art and outwardly manner of dealing with them.14

Gervase Markham advised the falconer to approach taming his hawk in terms suggestive of lovers’ attentions, describing the process as

a continual carrying of them upon your fist, and by a most familiar stroaking and playing with them, with the Wing of a dead Foule or such like, and by gazing often and looking of them in the face, with a loving and gentle Countenance, and so making him acquainted with the man.13

To effect collaboration, communication between people and their vassal animals was critical. Latham explained that a successfully trained hawk will ‘always and inwardly in her mind [be] attending and listening for your voice, and some other pleasing reward from you.’16 He described the process of training a hawk to stay close when outside:

walke with her to the young woods or groves... walking along from her into the winde, using your voice unto her softly... let it be especially with your tongue in whistling and chirping unto her; by which meanes to cause her to draw and follow after you with little noise.17

Finally, avian vassalage produced a very particular kind of merger between human and bird, the blending of bodily space (Figure 2.1). The process of taming a wild raptor depended on constant physical contact and touch as well as food rewards and soothing vocals. Falconer Edmund Bert strongly believed that in the first day of reclaiming, as taming was known, a hawk should always be on the fist of a trainer — ‘she should sit and walke all that day... either upon my fist or upon some man’s else,’ warning that even momentarily setting her ‘downe upon a pearch but whitest I should change my Glove, she would be more impaired thereby then she would profit in tenne days travaile.’18 During the entirety of taming period, he wrote, ‘for the most part my fist is her perch,’ even when eating, and he took care not ‘to hasten to bed for love of my Hawke.’ The end result was to ‘make her love me as her perch.’19 The purpose of having the hawk become a virtual appendage of the falconer during the ‘reclaiming’ process was to utterly habituate the bird to its human handler. Yet, it seems likely that these practices had profound consequences for the human’s psychological experience of the bird. Neuroscientists have proposed that the brain experiences ‘peripersonal space’ - the immediate space around the body — as part of the body; that ‘through a special mapping procedure, your brain annexes this space to your limbs and body,’ so that ‘your self does not end where your flesh ends, but suffuses and blends with the world, including other beings,’ such as one’s lover, one’s horse, or the hawk perched on one’s arm for hours on end.20


The birds and people brought into husbandry were assigned markedly different relationships than those produced by hunting. Where hunting was coded as elite, direct involvement in husbandry was fundamentally plebian — though with the important caveat that though nobility disdained and eschewed hands-on involvement in husbandry, they depended on its products for food, clothing, lighting, etc., and received income from it through tithes, taxes, and estates. The aristocrat performed his nobility by practicing falconry, and the professional falconer raised his social standing through his service; conversely, raising chickens or even killing avian ‘pests’ was work for commoners.

Husbandry manuals — in particular, the Spanish Libro de agricultura and the French L’agriculture et maison rustique, both of which appeared in multiple editions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries — provide a gateway into the underlying logic of this mode of interaction.21 Husbandry produced four categories of participants. First, there were the human masters responsible for producing goods and services. While much of husbandry was gendered male, raising poultry was considered women’s work across Western Europe. Gabriel Alonso de Herrera, in his Libro de agricultura, stated that ‘for the most part there is hardly a woman who does not know how to raise chickens (as Palladius says),’ invoking the fourth-century Roman author. He did qualify this statement with the observation that ‘in some parts not women, but men, raise them,’ such as in monasteries.“" Jean Liebault, too, in L’agriculture et la maison rustique, asserted that the ‘government of chickens.. .is the principal employment of the farm woman.’23 Second was the category of servants, which included the human laborers (shepherds, farm hands), horses, mules, oxen, and dogs - and as will be seen, roosters and mothering hens — who provided labor for transportation, plowing, shepherding, protection, and reproduction, among other services. Third, livestock were those animals bred, raised, managed, and killed for their products when dead and alive: namely, cows, sheep, pigs, and goats. In the avian domain, livestock were poultry: chickens, but also ducks, doves, and geese. Husbandry, as it pertained to birds, did not involve only domesticated fowl but also the capture and keeping of wild ducks and geese.24 Fourth, vermin were the wolves who preyed on sheep and calves; the foxes and snakes who consumed chicks; even the geese who grazed on the seed sown by farmers.25 Birds thus appear not only as domesticated and tamed fowl in husbandry, but also as ‘vermin’ that pillaged fields.26

The different categories of animals produced by husbandry led to different kinds of subjectivities. Servants - human and animal - figured as subordinate subjects, while livestock and vermin were constituted more as objects. Where vassal animals were subjectified in hunting, poultry were ‘objectified’ in husbandry, viewed as collectives rather than individuals, as objects to be managed rather than subjects with whom to collaborate. Their beingness was neglected in favor of their thingness.

Poultry, the quintessential avian livestock, were constituted as objects through the processes of collectivization, management, and alienation.2' The individuality of singular animals was effaced in husbandry through their organization into herds and flocks. Unlike the hawk deployed in falconry, chickens, geese, ducks, and other tamed and domesticated fowl were almost always viewed in the plurality. For livestock, the terminology suggests generic categories and interchangeability not only of individuals of a species but also among species: for instance, Alonso de Herrera treated ducks and geese together in one chapter and used ‘gallina’ generically to refer to a female of either of these species as well as a chicken.28 While falconry treatises referred to particular avian individuals and insisted on their unique personalities, no hen emerged as an individual in the pages of the husbandry manuals.29 Hens were distinguished into subsets by color (Alonso de Herrera suggested that black and blonde ones were favored as egg-layers, and white ones were to be avoided for not ‘fattening as much nor are they as flavorful’ as well as for too easily attracting the unwanted attention of hawks; Liebault asserted that red ones were best).30 In contrast to the way in which vassal animals were engaged, livestock were managed. Whether hens produced enough or the right size of eggs, whether they thrived and fattened well, how to choose breeders, when to breed them, and how to get them to lay eggs31 - all this depended not on an active relationship between woman and bird but almost solely on the actions of the person (with a few exceptions discussed below). There is no sense of the chickens being ‘loved’ or ‘taught’ in the way that the hawks brought into falconry were.

If identification underpinned the ways that hunters related to vassal animals, alienation was a common principle in the way humans related to livestock in Western Europe. In alienation, the emphasis is on animals as products or producers of products. The logic of alienation construed creatures as vessels of disenchanted things. Cow bodies contained beef, candles, and leather; sheep bodies contained mutton, milk, and yarn. In this way, the living animal - cow, sheep, pig, goat, chicken - was (is?) a living carcass (it is interesting to note that there are today computerized tomography scanners that ‘analyze the “carcass quality” of live animals, so the best can be selected for breeding’32). Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the preface of

Edward Topsell’s The F ourles ofHeauen; or History qfBirdes (a partial translation of Ulisse Aldrovandi’s Ornithology that remained unpublished until last century). Topsell wrote:

without fowles we should lodge hard not having feathers in our beds, fare hard without many rare délicates, live sick without many singular remedies and parts of physicik, and many places would be eaten up or so annoyed with flies (especially our fens) that it were impossible for men to dwell in them.33

In his chapters concerning chickens and capons, Aldrovandi devoted ample space to how the birds were to be fed depending on the desired use of their carcasses. The principle of alienation underlay the recommended management of poultry in Libro de agricultura and L’agriculture et la maison rustique in order to ensure the best meat and eggs. The live chicken was regarded as a byway to producing ‘flesh’ of ‘a particular taste.’34 Feeding and fattening instructions pertained to how to deliver the best-producing flesh or the best egg-layers, as suggested by the chapter title ‘The sustenance that hens need to have in order to lay many eggs.’35

The skeptical reader might object that the view of poultry so far described emerges from elite records; might not the farm woman have seen her avian charges as individuals and feel affection for them? The answer is clearly ‘yes,’ and though so far I have not been able to find a farm woman’s view of her poultry, Aldrovandi did reveal a special, mutual affinity between himself and a particular hen when discussing ‘tame chickens so gentle and mild in nature that they cannot live without human companionship.’ He recalled that:

A few years ago in my country home I raised a hen who, in addition to the fact that she wandered the whole day alone through the house without the company of other hens, would not go to sleep at night anywhere except near me among my books, and those the larger ones, although sometimes when she was driven away she wished to lie upon her back.36

In this reminiscence, we see that Aldrovandi developed a relationship with a chicken based on her individuality and mutual affection that belies the lack of subjectivity I’ve proposed for livestock. Yet this instance of a special manchicken bond does not undermine the argument about livestock subjectivity. Rather, it reveals its limits. A prescribed subjectivity does not preclude relationships that thwart its contours, but these become exceptions rather than normative. Through this small window, we see the agency of both man and chicken thwarting the normative subjectivity for poultry. But the passage makes clear that the norm was for a hen to be part of a flock, in ‘the company of other hens,’ and not to be spending the night with a nobleman and his books (he made clear that ‘she was driven away,’ after all).

Servant animals

Not all of the animals brought into husbandry were livestock. A significant minority were servant animals. The servant class of animals in husbandry shared with the vassal class in hunting a subjectivity organized around their individuality, capacity for collaboration, and commonalities with people. Roosters, along with oxen and working dogs, exemplified the servant class of animal. In the many pages Alonso de Herrera devoted to poultry, birds appear as undifferentiated livestock - except when he touched on the subject of roosters. He explained the ‘principal signs that make a rooster very good,’ identifying

much courtliness and generosity and for this reason there is the old adage, ‘courtly like the rooster,’ and for this it seems to me noteworthy that God put [him] in our homes before our eyes so that we can learn the way the rooster with one mouth calls in a loud voice and entertains such a multitude of chickens.37

In their roles as reproductive agents, the common subjectivity roosters shared with people was recognized. Similarly, a servant subjectivity organized around identification and collaboration emerged in the work of Liebault when he described the process by which a capon (a castrated rooster) could substitute for the biological mother after she hatched her chicks. According to him, this substitution not only would make the hen ‘ready to hatch eggs’ sooner but would also ensure, due to the superior caretaking skills of the capon, that the chicks were ‘best nourished and defended from hawks and other birds of prey.’ He instructed his readers to choose a capon ‘with the strongest and sharpest nettles.’ The capon was then to be enclosed

in the basket with the little ones, along with bread doused in wine, leaving them there sometime, until at last he feels love for them such that even in liberty he will raise them, watch them, lead them and become more crazily in love with them than their own mother.38

As with the reproductive role of the rooster, the maternal role of the capon highlights the shared investment in caretaking and affection for young shared by humans and birds alike.

Finally, it needs to be said that while distinct, the structures of hunting and husbandry were by no means wholly separate. The practices of hunting influenced the conduct ofhusbandry, and, in turn, the practices of husbandry shaped the development of hunting over generations. For instance, the process of training hawks in medieval and early modern Europe depended on an accessible and abundant supply of domesticated chickens and doves which were fed as food and rewards.39 And cock-fighting was organized around domesticated roosters but imported many of the values of hunting (simulated war, contest, naming practices).40


Hunting and husbandry were not the only modes that organized European people’s interactions with birds, to be sure. But they predominated and so influenced and conditioned other contexts. One such context was the menagerie. By definition, menageries were rare; only those with great wealth and extraordinary diplomatic connections - popes, princes, and Medici -were able to develop them, as they possessed the wherewithal to obtain and sustain cheetahs, leopards, and rhinos from overseas.41 Following classical antecedents, princes and nobles displayed their power by flaunting goods and animals that had been procured from far-flung places. The menagerie was a subset of a potentate’s other collections of natural and artificial wonders42 and so in some ways quite different than animals bred, captured, and procured in hunting and husbandry operations.

The exemplary bird of the menagerie was the parrot. Though parrots were quite prevalent in the Roman Empire due to extensive networks that allowed access to those of the Far East, with the collapse of Rome, they largely disappeared, at least in the flesh. In the words of Bruce Boehrer:

living parrots seldom appear in the historical records of medieval Europe. ... The story of parrots in medieval Europe is in large part the story of their absence. Yet, paradoxically, as they grow less visible in the feather, they loom larger in the cultural imagination, often in ways that bear no discernible relation to biological reality.43

In the visual and textual iconography of the Middle Ages, parrots were sacred emblems, portrayed as symbols of Christ, companions of the Virgin Mary, and residents of the Holy Land.44 In the thirteenth century, Frederick II acquired an umbrella cockatoo from the Sultan of Babylon, and in the fourteenth century, Charles IV of France had an Alexandrine parakeet in his aviary.4 Parrots arrived into Europe in increasing numbers with fifteenth-century Portuguese expansion into West Africa46 and became increasingly commonplace in menageries; Pope Pius II taught his parrot to orate Latin verses and Martin V maintained in his retinue two men who attended ‘the parrot of His Holiness with its cage.’47 They were flaunted during processions, along with elephants and leopards and other exotic animals and occupied honored places in royal aviaries.48 The subjectivity of parrots of medieval and Renaissance royal and aristocratic menageries was that of an objectified wonder. The animal in the menagerie was valued primarily as a symbol and not for its individual personality and affinity for others — which is not to deny that individual humans and parrots formed strong attachments to one another.

Birds in the Americas

In exploring and colonizing parts of native America, Europeans encountered societies even more bird-obsessed than their own. Among the ways

Amerindians related to birds were hunting, taming, eating, and/or enjoying the songs of wild birds; raising and eating domestic birds; harvesting and trading feathers from which to create art and adornment; mimicking them in ritual performances; and auguring and deifying birds.

Just as European hunting and husbandry were linked in practice and ideology to aristocratic rule and to dynastic and colonial warfare, so Amerindian modes of interaction were cognate to forms of social life and inter-group conflict. In both Mesoamerican and Caribbean and Amazonian societies (the latter two possessing strong cultural affiliations),49 a major objective of warfare was to obtain captives.50 Such captives were assimilated into the host communities in two ways that, to European eyes, appeared dramatically opposed, but actually seem to have operated on a similar logic. Some individuals (primarily though not exclusively children and women) were incorporated as adoptive kin or slaves, depending on contingencies and the community; other individuals (primarily men) were killed, and in many places ritually cannibalized, and so also incorporated in another fashion. Charles de Rochefort, a French missionary who lived among the Caribs of the Lesser Antilles in the early seventeenth century, described this phenomenon:

[T]hey bring home [a] Prisoner of War from among the Arouagues [Arawaks], he belongs of right to him who either seized on him in the Fight, or took him running away; so that being come into his Island, he keeps him in his house; and that he may not get away in the night, he ties him in an Ainae, which he hangs up almost at the roof of his dwelling; and after he has kept him fasting four or five days, he produces him upon some day of solemn debauch, to serve for a publick Victim to the immortal hatred of his Country-men towards that Nation. ... They design for slavery only the young Maids and Women taken in the War: They do not eat the Children of their She-prisoners, much less the Children they have by them themselves.51

Though Mesoamerican communities differed in many important aspects from Amazonian and Caribbean groups, captive-oriented warfare was a central and shared element. Among the Aztecs and others in Central Mexico, warrior captives were fed to the solar deity; others were chosen to incarnate deities and so treated as gods until their sacrifice. Later on the family of the warrior who took the captive in battle - the captor — ritually consumed the flesh of the captive.32 Some women and children taken captive in war were also sacrificed, but others were spared; the great ethnographic compendium known as the Florentine Codex states that:

If a woman [slave] could embroider, or if she prepared food well, or made cacao—from her hand good food, good drink came—[of if she were] a clear speaker she was also set aside. The nobles took [women like her] as wives.5


The two sides of captive warfare, predation and adoption, also mediated Caribbean, Amazonian, and Mesoamerican relationships with nonhumans. In predation, whether in war or hunting, a central element was the transformation of the warrior - or shaman or priest acting in the warrior role — into an apex predator. Naguallism refers to those practices related to the assumption of animal properties in which aspects of deity, animal, and human were interchangeable. In Nahuatl, a nagualli (or nahaulli) referred to a shamanic type who could shape-shift into an animal.34 Studies of South American shamanism (including Amazonian and Caribbean) likewise focus on the importance of shape-shifting. Naguallism encompassed a constellation of beliefs and practices around animal metamorphosis; the inextrica-bility of‘matter’ (pelts, skins, feathers) and ‘spirit’ (essences of preciousness, beauty, power, courage, etc.); and the instantiation of the divine through animal accoutrements. Nagual subjectivity presupposed absolute identification between subject and object and an understanding of subjectivity based not on the bounded, essential subject but rather entities comprised of the sum of their appurtenances.

The relationship between transitive animal properties and an amorphous and contingent subjectivity dependent on an identity between matter and essence can be seen through Mesoamericans’ conceptualizations of their deities. The ‘costume’ or ‘adornment’ was essential to the god’s very being; outer display was identical to essence itself: ‘for the Mexica—as for Amerindian more generally—it was the skin, that most external and enveloping “appearance,” which constituted a creature’s essence, and so stored the most formidable symbolic power. 6 Eagle feathers’ special power was exemplified in the patron deity of the Mexica, Huitzilopochtli (or Uitzilopochtli), that manifestation of the divine associated with creative and destructive powers of the sun and so war, death, and creation.3' Huitzilopochtli as the sun incarnate gave life, yet to do so required a steady diet of hearts and blood. The property of life-giving sacrificial killing could be found in the falcon (or eagle) who ‘gives life to Uitzilopochtli because, they said, these falcons, when they eat three times day, as it were give drink to the sun; because when they drink blood they consume it all,’ explained a native informant to who contributed to the Florentine Codex. The raptor as much begot the divinity as it was begot from it. These correspondences were enacted in ritual. In a festival typical of the Mexica, the hearts of sacrificed prisoners were named ‘precious eagle-cactus fruit’:

they lifted [the hearts] up to the sun, the turquoise prince, the soaring eagle. They offered it to him; they nourished him with it. And when they had been offered, they placed it in the eagle-vessel. And the captives who had died they called “eagle men.”

The warrior who took the prisoner in battle was celebrated and reified as the eagle:

And [as for] the captor, they there applied the down of birds to his head and gave him gifts. They named [the captor] the sun, white earth, the feather, because [he was] as one whitened with chalk and decked with feathers."’9

The characteristic of sacrificial killing migrated transitively between god, sun, bird, and man and in fact made each entity itself an embodiment of that quality.

The fungibility of feathers and pelts and the conviction that substance and essence were identical also underlay the many sets of practices in which humans took on or displayed animal attributes. An example of this ‘transforming capacity of the donned skin’ can be seen in the elite coteries of distinguished warriors known as ‘Eagle Warriors’ and ‘Jaguar Warriors.’60 The warriors were empowered by wearing the eagle pelt through which they channeled the animal’s distinct prowess, as articulated by those interviewed for the Florentine Codex: ‘The eagle is fearless, a brave one; it can gaze into, it can face the sun.’61 Stone sculptures survive of the eagle helmets —fashioned out of wood and covered in the raptor’s feathers — young warriors would wear. The raptors’ importance in Mexica rituals is also suggested by the live eagles levied from tributaries.62

The Caribbean and Amazonian rituals in which warrior-hunters and shamans transformed into jaguars and fierce birds of prey bear striking resemblances to those described for Mesoamerica. Raymond Breton, a Dominican missionary who participated in the French settlement of Guadeloupe and lived among the Dominica Island Caribs for extended periods between 1652 and 1654 — oftentimes, the only European in their midst — included invaluable ethnographic information in his Dictionaire caraibe-françois (1665)/” In several places in the Dictionaire, he described a feast, ‘one of their most solemn,’ in which boys and men took on the qualities of a certain raptor.64 Preparations began several months before the event, when men sought out the birds in their nests (‘little ones for the little ones, and for the married men, big and heavy ones’) to raise for this mystère (rite). On the feast day, the chief warrior killed the bird he had raised by crushing it against his head, letting the blood trickle down and leaving it there for the duration of the ceremony. The boys were prepared for their participation by having their flesh incised; then the men who ‘have had a child or killed an Arawak’ crushed the other birds with red chili who had been captured and kept for that purpose. The bloodied, chili-covered raptor carcasses were smeared over the cuts of the boys and men. The ritual culminated when each boy and man consumed the heart of ‘his bird,’ followed by a vomit-inducing tobacco infusion.65 By letting the raptor’s blood seep under his skin, and eating its heart, each boy and man was imbued with the raptor’s essence, giving him the virile vigor necessary for fatherhood and predation in war and hunt.

The importance of identification with the raptor for the Dominica Island Caribs reverberates throughout Breton’s dictionary, and in several places, he refers to this rite as well as a gourd filled with the flesh of the mansfenix ‘that they wear around their neck like a relic in order to become strong and valiant.’ Elsewhere, he elaborated that:

our savages/natives sometimes have on their necks collars of little gourds... full of the flesh of tnansfoenix, and other times, the fur of jaguars, claws of raptors and other similar things, that they wear like relics, especially at feasts and outside their feasts they always have them attached to their neck.66

Colonial ethno-historical sources, as well as nineteenth- and twentiethcentury ethnographies, document similar rituals among Amazonian and mainland Caribbean groups.67


One kind of incorporation was that which happened when one assumed the attributes of another by wearing its skin, enshrouding oneself in its feathers or ingesting its flesh and organs. Another kind of incorporation took place when an outsider animal or human became adopted into a kin network or other grouping. ‘Adoption’ as a mode was organized around the capture and adoption of birds and other animals (including humans in war). These adopted animals would be assimilated in host societies as ‘fictive kin.’

Throughout South America, the Caribbean, and Mesoamerica, individual parrots were captured, tamed, and brought into households. Colonial texts, archeological evidence, and modern-day ethnographies all point to widespread and ancient practices of capturing wild parrots and related birds throughout Amazonia, the Andes, the circum-Caribbean, Mesoamerica, and even as far as New Mexico in earlier periods.68 Writing in the early sixteenth century, Peter Martyr d’Anghiera wrote of the Indians on the coast of Venezuela that ‘these natives also keep numbers of birds which they rear either for food or for their pleasure.’69 The anonymous author and artist of the sixteenth-century manuscript Histoire Naturelie des hides devoted ample space to describing the ingenious methods of parrot capture among Native Americans in Trinidad and Nicaragua70 (Figure 2.2). French missionary Charles de Rochefort characterized the Caribs of the Lesser Antilles as ‘great Lovers of divertissements and recreation. ... [T]o that purpose they take a pleasure in keeping and teaching a great number of Parrots and Paraquitos.’71 Breton included at least seven varieties of parrots, noting which ones were particularly adept at speaking.72

An ‘Indian of Trinidad’ captures live parrots in Histoire Naturelle des Indes, C.1586

Figure 2.2 An ‘Indian of Trinidad’ captures live parrots in Histoire Naturelle des Indes, C.1586.

Source: “Indian of Trinidad,” f. 83r in Histoire Naturelle des Indes (Drake Manuscript), c.1586, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MA 3900. Courtesy of the The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York; Bequest of Clara S. Peck, 1983. Photo by David A. Loggie.

The Florentine Codex attests to adoption practices in Mesoamerica: the ‘young yellow-headed parrot... is captured [to be] tamed,’ and the ‘white-fronted parrot... is a singer, a constant singer, a talker, a speaker, a mimic, an answerer, an imitator, a word-repeater. It repeats one’s words, imitates one, sings, constantly sings, chatters, talks.’73 The importance of adoption is reflected in its incorporation into practices at the highest level. Among tributes levied by Aztec rulers were live birds, some intended for sacrifice, and others to be maintained in royal aviaries.74 ‘Live birds,’ according to the missionary Diego Duran, were ‘sent by these different nations, the most highly esteemed and those of the finest plumage. Some were green, some red, and others blue; parrots, large and small.’75

The Frenchmen who spent time among the Amazonian Tupinamba in the mid-sixteenth century offer the earliest ‘thick descriptions’ of Amerindian bird adoption practices. Andre Thevet, who served as a Franciscan missionary in the failed French colony in Brazil, wrote:

The savages of this land hold [these parrots] very dear, because three or four times a year they pluck their feathers to make hats [and] decorate shields, wooden swords, tapestries, and other exquisite things that they make customarily. They keep these birds in their lodgings, without having to enclose them, as we do here. ... The women in particular nourish them...they hold them very dear, to the point of calling them in their language ‘their friends.’ Moreover our Americans teach these birds to speak in their language how to ask for the flour that they make or roots, or they very often teach them to say and exhort that they must wage war against their enemies, capture them so as to eat them.76

Jean de Lery, his Protestant rival, made similar observations about a parrot ‘trained by a savage woman,’ who called her bird ‘thing that I love.’77

Colonial ethno-historical sources and more recent anthropological ethnographies of Amazonian groups alike confirm the value placed on such adopted birds, that it was women’s work to tame and raise them, and that the birds belonged in the domestic space.78 When Henry Bates, a nineteenth-century English naturalist who journeyed in the Amazon, could not get an intractable green parrot who fell out of a tree to cooperate in becoming a pet, he was referred to ‘an old Indian woman...who was said to be a skilful birdtamer.’ In two days’ time, his parrot was returned to him ‘as tame as the familiar love-birds of our aviaries.’ Bates speculated on ‘what arts the old woman used,’ having been told that ‘she fed it with her saliva,’ and he concluded that ‘the chief reason why almost all animals become so wonderfully tame in the houses of the natives is...their being treated with uniform gentleness, and allowed to run at large about the rooms.’79 Catherine Howard, an anthropologist who lived among the Amazonian Waiwai in the 1980s, described how parrots

were treated like children in numerous ways. Both were ornamented, painted, befeathered, or otherwise “dressed” by those responsible for their care and ‘socialization.’ ... A naked parrot seen in public—like a naked child—reflected badly on its caretakers, as if they nurtured neither its physical nor social growth.8"

Christopher Crocker, an anthropologist who did fieldwork among the Brazilian Bororo, also attested that ‘ownership of macaws is almost entirely limited to women,’ and the birds are often seen as replacements for lost children.81 Adoption ascribed a particular subjectivity to parrots and macaws assimilated into Amerindian communities. The adopted parrots’ status as kin is suggested by their place ‘in the lodgings,’ by being the beneficiaries of women’s ‘nourishment,’ and by being trained in common enmities (such as calling to ‘eat’ their foes).

A final, vital aspect of Amerindian practices that demands attention was adopted parrots’ role as suppliers of feathers for ritual objects, those ‘hats,’ ‘tapestries,’ weapons, and shields referred to by Thevet.82 Ritual feather objects were composed of feathers from both beloved pet birds and those hunted for that purpose; in both cases, the connection between the living bird and the power that it transmitted to its human wearers in rituals were of vital importance. Howard explains how feathers were necessary for Waiwai men to ‘construct a “beautiful” persona, while it was women who converted] the birds into either “food or humanized pets.’”83 And Crocker writes that ‘all domesticated macaws are living banks of rare and critical ritual material’ and that ‘it is almost axiomatic that every man of status has either a full box of macaw feathers, or is related by consanguinity or alliance to a woman with a tame macaw, or both.’84

The featherworks worn and deployed by Caribbean, Amazonian, and Mesoamerican peoples most often featured feathers from multiple bird species and displayed layered and multivalent meaning. John Ogilvie, a European adventurer who lived among Waiwai in British Guiana in the early twentieth century, complained that in order to purchase a feather headdress, he was ‘subjected [to] the history of the hat itself! I was taken on a verbal hunt after each bird, just who was at the hunt, how and where it was shot, and countless long-winded details.’85 Later in the century, an anthropologist described how the feathered costume worn by a Waiwai displayed ‘a microcosm of the cosmology charted out on the body.’86 For the Bororo, the red macaw feathers of adopted birds resonated with fertility.87 It has already been seen that humans wearing raptors’ skin or ingesting their hearts was a means to manifest pred-atorial prowess. The feathers from the non-raptorial birds, including adopted parrots, seemed to connect to a different set of avian qualities such as those of beauty, preciousness, fertility, and transcendence.

The lengthy and highly specific descriptions of feathered regalia in the Florentine Codex offer some clue to the way that particular birds were associated with essential properties: the ear pendants of coatinga feathers of Huitzilopochtli, the ‘heron-feather spray with a single quetzal feather’ of Opochtli, and the ‘white heron feather headdress’ and ‘fan-shaped ornament of red arara feathers’ that belonged to Tezcatzoncatl;88 they also speak to how much meaning has been lost, as most European chroniclers spoke indiscriminately of‘feathers.’ Yet, the descriptions of gods and religious festivals in the Florentine Codex leave no doubt that the gleaming green feathers of the quetzal, above all, were indispensible in these instantiations of divinity.89 The feathers — ‘green, herb-green, very green, fresh green, turquoise-colored.. .the ones which glisten, which bend’90 - of the quetzal summoned, evoked, or created the life-giving rain, the transforming wind, and the transcendent beauty of the divine. The property of precious beauty, shimmeringness, belonged to the quetzal in its feathers and that property inhered in the feathers themselves. Art historian Alessandra Russo writes that birds in general and the quetzal in particular were the way through which sacred ‘essence.. .can manifest itself in the body of ordinary men.’91 Quetzal feathers were also necessary for the costumes worn by Mayan and Aztec rulers. Like the parrots in the Amazon and Caribbean valued for their feathers, quetzal birds were not killed (though they were also not kept in captivity; they were caught and released).92

Cultural encounter and exchange

An inflow of both parrots and featherworks into Europe was an almost immediate consequence of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas and the voyages of exploration and campaigns of conquest that followed in his wake. Explorers and soldiers readily accepted gifts of parrots and then sought them as trade goods throughout the Americas. In accepting or trading for such goods and animals, Europeans entered into Amerindian trade and gift networks that involved exchanges of live birds, feathers, and featherworks.93 The cross-cultural and trans-Atlantic migration of birds and featherworks begs the question: what exactly was moving when these birds and featherworks moved? Raw materials? Technologies? Ideas? Active agents?

In thinking about the transfer of objects - sentient and inanimate, conscious and unconscious, silent and talking — there is a range of potential processes. First, there may be universal elements, such as an intrinsic potential in both parrots and humans to form strong attachments, or for humans to find colorful, glimmering things, such as feathers, alluring. Second, there may be cultural convergence: shared elements in European and Amerindian societies may allow the same object to be valued and attributed meaning similarly. Third, there may be what Marshall Sahlins termed ‘commodity indigenization,’ or the way that a receiving culture will assimilate a foreign object on its own terms. Fourth, there may be transmission with the object, when due to qualities within an object and/or contexts in which an object is transmitted, elements of the ‘giving’ culture’s use and practices migrate with the object. Of course, in actuality, some or all of these processes can and do coexist, and often, the result is local interpretations of a syncretic, hybrid, or mestizo phenomenon.

In the case of the featherworks, along with other precious objects that Cortes received from Moctezuma and then presented to Charles V, who, in turn, ‘regifted’ them to other sovereigns,95 there seems to have been mostly cultural convergence and commodity indigenization at play. In considering the Aztec objects that became part of Habsburg collections, Carina Johnson

Going to the birds 69 writes that ‘the feather helmets, weapons, and shields could be easily read as military and sumptuary. ... [T]he feather helmets approximated European feather plumes decorating the hats and helmet of lords, soldiers, and elite commoners.’ Yet there were also major shifts in use and meaning as ‘sacral and inalienable objects were transformed into desacralized and alienable items. ... Preconquest nonmetal objects, particularly feather and stonework, could gain new desacralized roles as Kunstkammern exemplars of Mexican craftsmanship.’96 Amy Buono, in her study of the movement of Tupinamba featherworks in the early modern world, argues that as these sacred objects moved through ‘Kunst- und Wunderkammern, and early natural history collections... they were transformed into commodities to be bought and sold, gifted and bartered.’97

Another kind of cultural transfer occurred with the creation of featherworks as Christian ritual objects, or when traditional featherworks were deployed in Christian rites. The Salvator Mundi was such a Christian featherwork, commissioned by missionaries in post-conquest Mexico and created by amanteca (the skilled Mexica featherworkers) using traditional Mesoamer-ican skills, technologies, and materials. Russo finds the persistence of preHispanic aesthetic, spiritual, and iconographic elements: the feathered mosaic ‘evokes not only the metonymic liturgical base of Christianity, the Eucharist (the hostvictim as part of the Son and the Father) but also the pre-Hispanic concept of the ixiptatl understood as part and emanation of the thing represented.’98 Buono likewise reveals feathered mestizaje in her discovery that in the mid-sixteenth century, Tupi men and women in a Bahia mission were ‘baptized in the feathered adornments of their own cultural practices,’ finding feathers accommodated ‘in the new Jesuit Christian complex of colonial Brazil.’99 But overall far more was lost than maintained in the transmission from native America to Europe. There is no indication that any aspect of nagual subjectivity traveled with the feathers; the Amerindian conviction that featherworks transmitted a living avian essence to humans or gods who were bedecked with them did not translate. Instead, we see the logic of alienation that undergirded husbandry: feathers were raw materials, alienated from their connection to the living bird. This cultural disconnect is on display when the adventurer John Ogilvie was interminably bored by having to hear the ‘history’ of featherworks he wanted to buy, this very ‘history’ being what made it so valuable to the Waiwai on the other end of the transaction.

What about the parrots who migrated across the Atlantic on ships? This migration was one of the earliest among the Columbian Exchanges. According to Bartolomé de las Casas, on December 13, 1492, during Columbus’ first voyage and the exploration of the island that would become Hispaniola, ‘the Indians that [Columbus] had brought to the ship had understood that the Admiral wanted to have some parrots, it seems that the Indians who went with the Christians told the natives something about this, and so they brought parrots to them and gave as many as they were asked for,’ reportedly amassing at least 40.100 On his subsequent voyages, he procured more parrots on Guadalupe, the Venezuelan littoral, and probably elsewhere.101 Conquistador-turned-chronicler Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo wrote in his 1526 Sumario that he had ‘presented to his Majesty thirty or more parrots representing ten or twelve different species,’ most of whom ‘could speak very well.’ By that date, it had become so common to bring parrots across the Atlantic that Oviedo could write, ‘since so many species have been carried to Spain, it is hardly worthwhile to take time to describe them here.’102 Portuguese and French traders were systematically importing macaws and other parrots procured from Tupi in Brazil by the early sixteenth century.103 It is notable that the depiction of an exchange of Amazonian parrots and monkeys for European goods served to characterize the essence of European-Brazilian relations in the 1547 Vallard Atlas (Figure 2.3).104

Over the course of the following centuries, the influx of parrots accompanied and/or generated two interrelated transformations in European parrot culture, one ‘quantitative,’ and the other ‘qualitative.’ First, there was an expansion of parrot ownership. Parrots were no longer reserved for princes’ menageries; parrot keeping extended to mariners, wealthy merchants, and nobles and encompassed artisan classes by the eighteenth century105 (Figure 2.4). Second, the parrot metamorphosed from mystical marvel to family pet. If, in the Middle Ages, parrots featured mainly as decorations on illuminated manuscripts and, rarely, as living entities in royal aviaries; in the early modern period, they became increasingly common in urban households.106 The defining relationship of the modern ‘pet’ to its human keepers is that of kin; it is a family member.107 Georges Buffon, in the Histoire naturelle des oiseanx (1778), eloquently articulated this notion when he described the special attractiveness of parrots:

Tupi men and women exchange tamed parrots and monkeys with Europeans for metal tools in the Vallard Atlas, 1547

Figure 2.3 Tupi men and women exchange tamed parrots and monkeys with Europeans for metal tools in the Vallard Atlas, 1547.

Source: Detail from “Southeastern South America, Straits of Magellan,” f. 12 in “Vallard Atlas,” 1547, Huntington Library, HM 29. Reproduced by permission of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Barthel Beham, Woman with a Parrot, 1529

Figure 2.4 Barthel Beham, Woman with a Parrot, 1529. An unknown woman and her pet parrot. Their intimacy is suggested by the parrot’s comfortable position in the crook of her arm and the grapes the woman will feed to her bird.

Source: Barthel Beham, Bildnis einer Frau mit Papagei (Woman with a Parrot), 1529, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, GG 3483. Courtesy of the KHM-Museumsverband, Vienna.

It entertains, it distracts, it amuses; in solitude it is company; in conversation it is an interlocutor, it responds, it calls, it welcomes, it emits peals of laughter, it expresses a tone of affection... [it] seems to be moved and touched by caresses, it gives affectionate kisses; in a house of mourning it learns to moan, and accustomed to repeating the dear name of a deceased person, it reminds sensitive hearts of their pleasure and sorrows.108

Buffon rendered the parrot as the ideal family member, offering and receiving affection, amusement, and solace, sensitive to the energies and vicissitudes of the household as a whole. This role helps explain why parrots were so commonly linked in text and image with female domesticity. Taken too far, female parrot keepers might elevate their parrots over human objects of affection, such as the lady of the satirical verse who claimed that she loved her parrot ‘more than her life, and for which she would have given all of her loves.’109

What accounts for the metamorphosis of parrots from rare, sacred wonder to family pet? Was it an inevitable consequence of a ‘universal’ impulse among humans to have pets and among parrots to bond with their captors?110

Was it a consequence of the fact that a ready supply of American and African parrots initially fulfilled the fantasy of the magical Orient, but the subsequent fact of their abundance led to their devaluation into quotidian companion species? Or did the parrot’s metamorphosis - and even the emergence of the modern category of the pet - owe something to the Amerindian mode of interaction of adoption? The answer likely lies in a combination of all three of these, and so we have yet another example of modern mestizaje.

There is doubtless a component which could be characterized as a universal impulse. Or, as a skeptic of cultural explanations could put it: parrots’ en-meshment in the European home had less to do with culturally constructed subjectivities and more to do with a ‘universal’ attraction among humans to intelligent, speech-capable, attachment-forming birds. Yet a universal impulse cannot fully account for the intensification and extensification of parrot bonding in Europe, for Europeans did have access to home-grown intelligent avian candidates who could be tamed and taught to speak: crows and magpies. The seventeenth-century English ornithologist Francis Willughby, following Aldrovandi, acknowledged that crows are ‘capable of humane speech, and hath been taught to pronounce several words, both we our selves do certainly know,’ and he wrote of the magpie that ‘the Bird is easily taught to speak, and that very plainly. We ourselves have known many, which had learned to imitate man’s voice, and speak articulate with that exactness.’111 However, there is no evidence that crows and magpies were brought into the realm of pethood in the systematic and celebrated way that parrots were.

What about the second explanation, one that would consider the metamorphosis of parrots in Europe from marvel to pet as a mostly internal story -that Europeans had a pre-existing classical and medieval interest in parrots, and overseas regions only supplied birds but not cultural or social contexts? There is some truth to this as well. Clearly, parrots’ lofty presence in the medieval imagination and princes’ menageries predisposed Mediterranean explorers and soldiers to accept gifts of parrots, and, before long, demand them.

While the universal and Eurocentric explanations of the parrot sea change should not be dismissed, it does seem that European entanglement with Native American parrot-heavy culture catalyzed a juncture in the history of human—parrot relationships. Parrots crossed the Atlantic with elements of the Amerindian mode of incorporation in tow. First, Europeans did not, for the most part, pluck parrots out of trees; rather, they bought or received them as gifts from Amerindians who had captured and tamed them, as depicted in contemporary sources (Figures 2.2 and 2.3). Anghiera wrote tellingly that ‘the Spaniards are indifferent bird-hunters, and are neglectful in catching them.’112 Europeans were brought into ritual gift and trade exchanges that long pre-dated their arrival. Europeans acquired their parrots — and many of them - from Amerindians who had century-old skills and traditions honed for the capture of live birds. So, at the very least, we should see that there was no such thing as raw supply of parrots; these birds were captured and tamed by technologies and practices developed over millennia.

Furthermore, tantalizing traces suggest that Amerindian adoption contributed to the emergence of modern pethood. The existing scholarship emphasizes the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the period in which the modern ‘pet’ originated. For Marc Shell, this development links to the rise of secular cosmology in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; for Kathleen Kete, it evolved with the rise of romanticism and bourgeois domesticity.113 There is no reason to doubt that these factors were seminal in the emergence of the modern pet. But alongside these developments, Amerindian practices around adoption should be considered as well. The arrival of the kin subjectivity that characterized Amerindian parrot adoptions contributed to the genesis of the subjectivity of the modern pet. Parrots arrived not just as tabula rasa animals, ready to be made over into European pets, but rather already tamed and trained, already made into kin.

The processes by which European ideas and practices surrounding parrots changed as a result of sustained contact with Amerindian cultures are largely out of view. However, the French Dominican Jean-Baptiste Labat, who lived in the Caribbean (mostly in Martinique) between 1694 and 1706, offered a glimpse of this process in his Nouveau voyage aux isles de lAtnerique. In a chapter on parrots, he wrote first of a fellow cleric whose pet parrot was so loyal, affectionate, and protective that he threatened to bite anyone who came near him, including Labat’s own friendly dog. ‘I don’t think one could see in the world an animal more affectionate to his master,’ Labat wrote. He also praised the parrot’s speaking ability, ‘when we heard its voice without seeing it, it was difficult to distinguish if it was one of a bird or of a man.’114 Perhaps, inspired by this bird, Labat himself purchased three parrots during his stay in the Caribbean, one from Guadeloupe and two from Dominica.113 The one from Guadeloupe came as a big disappointment; because of his size, Labat thought that he was ‘old and so he would never learn to talk. He would only screech and because he had an extremely loud voice, it broke my ears, and this obligated me to have him killed.’ Labat soon ‘repented’ this act. Just as his slave was plucking feathers from the parrot’s carcass, a few of his parishioners paid him a visit. They informed him that the deceased parrot had been

still young and that his cries are what we call cancaner in the language of the islands, that he would have learned to speak in short time, and would have surpassed the others. As the bad deed was without remedy, I put it in a stew; his flesh was very good, delicate and succulent.116

(This recollection led to a lengthy digression on different preparations for parrot - young ones on the grill, older ones in soup — and their similarity and superiority to the flavor of European partridges). Labat learned from his mistake, so he decided to ‘pension’ the other two parrots, a male and a female, with a woman in his parish so they would learn to talk, offering the aside that ‘we know that women have the gift of speech, and they like to use it.’ Despite their advanced age, the Dominica parrots returned able to speak ‘to perfection,’ having ‘attended such a good school.’ They became so tame that they would fly at liberty in the woods but return at the sound of a whistle. The parrots lived four years in Labat’s care until ‘the husband’ was crushed by a window shutter; his death ‘having left him with a little bit of sadness (mm pen de chagrin), I got rid of the female so as not to have it for a second time.’117

Labat’s text offers a view of a distinctly Creole and mestizo space in which Amerindian parrot adoption was becoming European parrot pethood. The presence — political, social, and cultural - of Amerindians was still actively shaping parrot practices in seventeenth-century Lesser Antilles; the first parrots owned by European settlers were captured and tamed by Indians. Then, it seems, capturing and taming technologies were transferred to Creoles and settlers themselves, such as the woman to whom he sent his parrots to be educated, and his fellow cleric. As with all translations, in the process of transmission, there were changes, including new dangers, like window shutters. For Labat, the boundary between food and pet was porous, and quite unlike that of Amerindians in that and other areas. Labat’s willingness to eat his own parrot - and perhaps also the decision to rid himself of a parrot to avoid grieving twice — would have been shocking to Amazonian and Caribbean Indians,118 as it might have also been to his visiting parishioners and his colleague. Similarly, Jean de Lery described a range of practices and attitudes toward eating shipboard parrots when confronted with famine conditions; there were those who had ‘eaten theirs’ at the beginning of the food scarcity, others ‘who still had monkeys and parrots.. .which they had kept so as to teach them to speak a language that they did not yet know,’ but as starvation increased ‘now put them into the cabinet of their memory, and made them serve as food,’ and finally himself, who ‘in spite of this inexpressible suffering and famine.. .nevertheless up to that time kept one, as big as a goose, that uttered words freely like a man, and was of excellent plumage.’ Then he too finally succumbed to eating his bird, ‘discarding] nothing but the feathers, so that not only the body but also the tripes, feet, claws, and hooked beak served me and some of my friends to keep ourselves alive for three or four days.’ But then he ‘regretted it’ when they soon after ‘saw land’ and felt ‘distress.’119

The notion that there was a connection between European and Amerindian parrot keeping was not foreign to early modern observers. In the Ornithology of Francis Willughby (1678), the naturalist described a parrot:

one of those great ones in the house of the illustrious Lady Mary of Bremen, Dutchess of Croy and Areschot. ... [T]his Bird was so in love with Anna the Dutchesses Neece, now Countess of Meghen and Barrenness of Grosbeke, that where ever she walked about the Room it would follow her, and if it saw any one touch her cloaths, would drinke at him with its Bill; so that it seemed to be possessed with a spirit ofjealousie.120

After discussing the ‘love’ a pet parrot felt for Duchess Anna, he mused about ‘a certain Brasilian woman’ and quoted the passage in Jean de Lery about this

Going to the birds 75 woman and the bird ‘which she made much of, which seemed to be endowed with that understanding and reason,’ and who did her bidding.121 Though separated by distance and time, Willughby saw in both relationships a parrot devoted to a woman, familial closeness characterized by jealousy and loyalty.


In the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of human—animal studies, ‘anthropocentrism’ tends to be the gauge by which humans’ practices and attitudes toward other animals are evaluated.122 But this heuristic is not a fine enough tool to do justice to the multiplicity and diversity of the ways people have related to non-human beings over time. And those approaches that focus on universal features in human—animal relationships are also wanting; while acknowledging a shared universal nugget in human—avian attachments, it should also be recognized that these attachments take very specific cultural forms: both the European falconer and the Tupinamba woman formed intense bonds with his hawk and her parrot, respectively, but these attachments had strong cultural inflections. At first glance, the kinship subjectivity of Amerindian adoption may look quite similar to the vassalage of European hunting, but there was an important difference: while hawks might be tamed in the household, they were not represented as part of the domestic space, any more than a human vassal would be. The ideal of vassalage and pethood also differed. In vassalage, affection and communication were byproducts of a common pursuit of conquest. In pethood, affection and communication were/are the objective itself, the connection between bird and human the very point.

The subjectivity produced by naguallism shares many qualities with that of vassalage produced by the European mode of hunting. In both cultures, the warrior’s prowess was manifested and articulated through identification with fearsome predators. Yet, there was an important difference, namely that of the absolute identification that took place in naguallism. Because of the understanding that material and essence were inextricable, the subject and object could become one in native America in ways inconceivable in European cultures. The difference is not - as some have argued - that Europeans were more anthropocentric and Native Americans less so, but rather that Amerindians had a more porous sense of self and, correlated, a greater confidence in the interpenetration of thingness and beingness.

Exploring the transmission of featherworks and parrots across the Atlantic adds further complexity to our understanding of the Columbian Exchange. Once again, we see that such exchanges were much more than cross-transfers of‘biota’ across hemispheres. Cultural structures were essential in mediating the reception on both sides. Before the integration of the Atlantic world, Europeans had home-grown traditions that produced enduring human-avian relationships. Yet, in coming in contact with Amerindians and parrots, Europeans experienced directly a human—bird relationship organized around notions of kinship not previously experienced in their society. The role of Amerindian practices as a significant factor in European parrot adoption and consequently in the broader realm of human—animal relationships has not been adequately recognized. Europeans, conditioned through their direct and indirect relationships with persons in the New World, learned not only how to train and teach parrots but perhaps also to follow Amerindians in seeing birds as kin.


  • 1 I am grateful to Lauren (Robin) Derby, Paula Findlen, Margaret Garber, Erin Lichtenstein, Susanah Shaw Romney, and Zeb Tortorici for reading versions of this chapter and offering useful comments and encouragement.
  • 2 The flourishing of European chickens and African guinea hens in the Americas, and American turkeys in Europe were, of course, no less interesting and consequential aspects of the Columbian Exchange.
  • 3 For more on this concept, Marcy Norton, ‘Animals in Spain,’ in Lexikon of the Hispanic Baroque: Technologies of a Transatlantic Culture, ed. Evonne Levy and Ken Mills (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013), 17—19.
  • 4 This paragraph follows Thomas T. Allsen, The Royal Hunt in Eurasian History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 58—67, as well as the sources cited below. Under falconry, I am including ‘hawking,’ but contemporaries distinguished between these activities. Richard Grassby, ‘The Decline of Falconry in Early Modern England,’ Past & Present 157 (November 1997): 37.
  • 5 Fadrique de Zúñiga y Sotomayor, Libro de cetrería de caça de a(or (Salamanca: Juan de Canoua, 1565), f. 4v; Pedro López de Ayala, Libro de la caça de las aves (British Library, Londres), ed. John G. Cummins (London: Tamesis, 1986), 71 (14r), 63 (lOr), 82 (20r); Allsen, Royal Hunt, 243; Grassby, ‘Decline,’ 43.
  • 6 For training a gyrfalcon to pursue hares, López de Ayala, Libro, 72 (14v), 80 (18v).
  • 7 Grassby, ‘Decline,’ 56.
  • 8 Zúñiga y Sotomayor, Libro, f. Ir; on hunting generally, Pedro Núñez de Avendaño, Aniso de caçadores y de caça (Alcala: Joan de Brocar, 1543), f. 28v.
  • 9 Michel de Montaigne, ‘Apology for Raymond Sebond,’ in The Complete Essays of Montaigne, trans. Donald Murdoch Frame (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1976), 338.
  • 10 Zúñiga y Sotomayor, Libro, f. 21v; on expensive medicines, López de Ayala, Libro, 150—152 (56v—57v); Allsen, Royal Hunt, 61.
  • 11 Simon Latham, Lathams New and Second Booke of Falconrie (London: Roger Jackson, 1618), 74-75.
  • 12 Simon Latham, Lathams Falconry or The Faulcons Lure (London: R. Jackson, 1615), 27.
  • 13 López de Ayala, Libro, 69 (13r), 80 (18v); Grassby, ‘Decline,’ 47.
  • 14 Latham, Second Booke, 3.
  • 15 Gervase Markham, Country Contentments: Or, The Husbandmans Recreations, 5th ed. (London: John Harison, 1633), 37; López de Ayala, Libro, 118—119 (32v—33r).
  • 16 Latham, Second Booke, 27.
  • 17 Ibid., 41,42.
  • 18 Edmund Bert, An Approued Treatise of Hawkes and Hawking (London: Richard Moore, 1619), 13.
  • 19 Ibid., 21, 22; see also Latham, Second Booke, 27, López de Ayala, Libro, 85—88 (43v—44r), 99-100 (22r—v); Zúñiga y Sotomayor, Libro, 32r.

Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee, The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better (New York: Random House, 2007), 4, 133—137.

Gabriel Alonso de Herrera, Libro de agricultura de Alonso de Herrera (Pamplona: Mathias Mares, 1605) (this edition is nearly identical to the 1563 edition as concerns poultry); Charles Estienne and Jean Liébault, L’agriculture et maison rustique (Lyon: Jaques du Puys, 1583). Alonso de Herrera’s work appeared in 13 editions in Spanish during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Antonio Palau y Dulcet, Manual del Librero Hispano-Americano (Barcelona: Libreria anticuaria, 1923), 6: 574-575.

Alonso de Herrera, Libro de agricultura, 149r.

Liébault, Maison rustique, 39 v.

Alonso de Herrera, Libro de agricultura, 133v; Liébault, Maison rustique, 46v.

Alonso de Herrera, Libro de agricultura 149v, 150v; Liébault, Maison rustique, 40v, 46v. Grassby, ‘Decline,’ 47.

For a general history of the chicken, Page Smith and Charles Daniel, The Chicken Book (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000).

Alonso de Herrera, Libro de agricultura, 142r—143v.

Ibid., 142r—143v, 150r—155v; Liébault, Maison rustique, 39v—51r.

Alonso de Herrera, Libro de agricultura, 150v; Liébault, Maison rustique, 40v.

Alonso de Herrera, Libro de agricultura, 150v—151v; Liébault, Maison rustique, 39v— 51 r.

Evan Ratliff, ‘Taming the Wild,’ National Geographic, March 2011, 54—55.

Edward Topsell, The Fowles of Heauen; or History of Birdes, ed. Thomas Perrin Harrison and F. David Hoeniger (Austin: University of Texas, 1972), 19.

Liébault, Maison rustique, 41 r.

Alonso de Herrera, Libro de agricultura, 151r, also 143r; Liébault, Maison rustique, 43v—44r, 46r.

Ulisse Aldrovandi, Aldrovandi on Chickens: The Ornithology of Ulisse Aldrovandi, ed. and trans. L. R. Lind (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 36. Alonso de Herrera, Libro de agricultura, 150r.

Liébault, Maison rustique, 43r. My emphasis.

For example, Lopez de Ayala, Libro, 87 (44v).

Smith and Daniel, Chicken Book, 71—75, 77—82; George Wilson, The Commendation of Caches, and Cock-Fighting (London: Henrie Tomes, 1607).

Classic and unsurpassed is Gustave Loisel, Histoire des ménageries de l’antiquité à nos jours 3 vols. (Paris: O. Doin et fils, 1912), vol. 1; for menageries of Renaissance popes and other powerful Italians, Silvio A. Bedini, The Pope’s Elephant (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1997); for those of the Portuguese court, Anne-marie Jordan-Gschwend, The Story of Suleyman: Celebrity Elephants and Other Exotica in Renaissance Portugal (Zurich: A. J. Gschwend, 2010).

Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150—1750 (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 34, 67, 88; Jordan-Gschwend, Story of Suleyman, vi.

Bruce Thomas Boehrer, Parrot Culture: Our 2,500-year-long Fascination with the World’s Most Talkative Bird (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 3-15, 24-29, especially 23.

Ibid., 32, 35—39; Bruce Boehrer, ‘The Cardinal’s Parrot: A Natural History of Reformation Polemic,’ Genre 41.1/2 (2008): 3—4; Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 179—180.

Boehrer, Parrot Culture, 23, 28; see also idem, ‘Cardinal’s Parrot,’ 5; Loisel, Histoire, 1: 232.

Boehrer, ‘Cardinal’s Parrot,’ 4; Jordan-Gschwend, Story of Suleyman, 7; Lach, Asia, 178-179.

  • 47 Boehrer, ‘Cardinal’s Parrot,’ 5; Loisel, Histoire, 1: 202.
  • 48 Bedini, The Pope’s Elephant, 19, 28; Jordan-Gschwend, Story of Suleyman, 7.
  • 49 Neil L. Whitehead, ‘Ethnic Plurality and Cultural Continuity in the Native Caribbean,’ in Wolves from the Sea: Readings in the Anthropology of the Native Caribbean, ed. idem (Leiden: KITLV Press, 1995), 91, 96—97. For a recent overview of the ethno-histories of these groups, see relevant essays in The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Vol. Ill: South America, ed. Frank Salomon and Stuart B. Schwartz, 2 parts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 2: 864-903.
  • 50 For Caribbean and South America, Neil L. Whitehead, ‘The Crises and Transformations of Invaded Societies,’ in Cambridge History of the Native Peoples, 882—888; idem, Lords of the Tiger Spirit: A History of the Caribs in Colonial Venezuela and Guyana 1498-1820 (Dordrecht: Foris Publications, 1988), 182 and ch. 8 generally; Juan Villamarin and Judith Villamarin, ‘Chiefdoms,’ in Cambridge History of the Native Peoples, 2: 600. For northeastern North America, see Daniel K. Richter, ‘War and Culture: The Iroquois Experience,’ The William and Mary Quarterly Third Series, 40.4 (October 1983): 528—559; for southeastern North America, Christina Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 36-44.
  • 51 Charles de Rochefort, The History of the Caribby-Islands, trans. John Davies (London: T. Dring and J. Starkey, 1666), bk. 2, ch. 21, 326 (emphasis in the original), also 266, 271, 323, 325, 327—331. See also Pietro Martire d’Anghiera, De Orbe Novo, the Eight Decades of Peter Martyr d’Anghera, trans. Francis Augustus MacNutt, 2 vols. (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912), 1: 63, 71.
  • 52 Frances Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt, eds., The Codex Mendoza, 4 vols. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 3: 64r, 4: 188—189; Inga Clend-innen, The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society: Essays on Mesoamerican Society and Culture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), especially chs. 1 and 3.
  • 53 Bernardino de Sahagun, The Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain (hereafter FC) 12 books in 13 volumes, trans. Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles Dibble (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research and the University of Utah Press, 1950), 1: 44; Marcy Norton, Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008), 16.
  • 54 Marie L. Musgrave-Portilla, ‘The Nahualli or Transforming Wizard in Pre-and Postconquest Mesoamerica,’ Journal of Latin American Lore 8.1 (1982): 3—62; Martha Few, Women Who Live Evil Lives: Gender, Religion, and the Politics of Power in Colonial Guatemala (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002), 58—61; Daniel G. Brinton, ‘Nagualism,’ Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 33.144 (1894): 11-73.
  • 55 Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff, The Shaman and the Jaguar: A Study of Narcotic Drugs among the Indians of Colombia (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1975); Nicholas J. Saunders, ed., Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas (London: Routledge, 1998), 16—21; Carlos Fausto and David Rodgers, ‘Of Enemies and Pets: Warfare and Shamanism in Amazonia,’ American Ethnologist 26.4 (1999): 933-956. On Tupi bird transformation, Amy Buono, ‘Crafts of Color: Tupi Tapirage in Early Colonial Brazil,’ in The Materiality of Color: The Production, Circulation, and Application of Dyes and Pigments 1400-1800, eds. Andrea Feeser, Maureen Daly Goggin and Beth Fowkes (Aidershot: Ashgate Press, 2012), 28, 31.
  • 56 Inga Clendinnen, -d-stecs; An Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 228, 346, n. 51. See also Elizabeth H. Boone, ‘Incarnations of the Aztec Supernatural: The Image of Huitzilopochtli in Mexico and Europe,’

Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 79.2 (1988), 4; Arild Hvidtfeldt, Teotl and Mxiptlatli: Some Central Conceptions in Ancient Mexican Religion (Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1958), 98—99; Alessandra Russo, ‘Plumes of Sacrifice: Transformations in Sixteenth-Century Mexican Feather Art,’ RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 42 (2002): 234—235.

FC, 1: 1, Clendinnen, Aztecs, 22.

FC, 11: 43-44.

Ibid., 2: 47-48.

Ibid., 2: 49; Clendinnen, Aztecs, 228-229.

FC, 1:41.

Manual Aguilar-Moreno, Aztec Art (Crystal River, FL: Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, 2007), http://www.famsi.org/research/ aguilar/Aztec_Art.pdf, 32, fig. 43; Codex Mendoza, 3: 31r, 55r.

Sybille de Ригу, ‘Le Pere Breton par lui-meme,’ in Dictionnaire caraïbe-français (Paris: KARTHALA Editions, 1999), xvi-xvii; Raymond Breton, Dictionaire Caraibe-François: Meslé de quantité de remarques historiques pour l’esclaircissement de la langue (Auxerre: Gilles Bouquet, 1665).

Breton identified the ‘mansfenix,’ as a milan, or a kite. Breton, Dictionaire, 1: 202, 132.

Ibid., 1: 202.

Ibid., 1: 21, 192. See also 31, 255, 290. For the identification of the bird as a kite, see 1: 37.

Lawrence Waldron, ‘Like Turtles, Islands Float Away: Emergent Distinctions in the Zoomorphic Iconography of Saladoid Ceramics of the Lesser Antilles, 250 BCE to 650 CE,’ (PhD diss., City University of New York, 2010), 183; Arie Boomert, ‘Raptorial Birds as Icons of Shamanism in the Pre-Historic Caribbean and Amazonia,’ in Proceedings of the XIX International Congress for Caribbean Archaeology, ed. Luc Alofs and Raymundo Dijkhoff (Aruba: Archaeological Museum, 2001), 123; Catherine V. Howard, ‘Feathers as Ornaments Among the WaiWai,’ in The Gift of Birds: Featherwork of Native South American Peoples, ed. Ruben E. Reina and Kenneth M. Kensinger (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, 1991), 66—67; Peter T. Furst, ‘Crowns of Paper: Bird and Feather Symbolism in Amazonian Shamanism,’ in Gift of Birds, 106-107.

Reina and Kensinger, eds., Gift of Birds; John O’Neill, ‘Featherwork,’ in Costumes & Featherwork of the Lords of Chimor: Textiles from Peru’s North Coast, ed. Ann P. Roe (Washington, DC: Textile Museum, 1984), 146; Elizabeth P. Benson, Birds and Beasts of Ancient Latin America (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997), 69, 74-75; Boehrer, Parrot Culture, 50—55; FC, bks. 11, 12: 22—23; Darrell Creel and Charmion McKusick, ‘Prehistoric Macaws and Parrots in the Mimbres Area, New Mexico,’ American Antiquity 59.3 (July 1994): 510—524.

Anghiera, De Orbe Novo, 1: 344; he also mentioned that the inhabitants of Paria had ‘talking parrots,’ which they readily offered as gifts, 1: 254.

Anonymous, Histoire naturelle des Indes: The Drake Manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library, intro. Verlyn Klinkenborg and trans. Ruth S. Kraemer (New York: Norton, 1996), f. 83, 88.

Rochefort, The History of the Caribby-Islands, bk. 2, ch. 17, 307.

Breton, Dictionaire, 1: 25, 218—219; 2: 286—287. See also Anghiera, De Orbe Novo, 1: 72; Jean Baptiste du Tertre, Histoire generale des Antilles habitées par les François (Paris: Thomas, 1667), 2: 248. For Panamian Сипа, Lionel Wafer, A New Toyage and Description of the Isthmus of America (Cleveland, OH: Burrows, 1903), 120.

FC, 11: 22, 23.

H. B. Nicholson, ‘Montezuma s Zoo,’ Pacific Discovery 8 (1955): 3—17.

Diego Duran, The History of the Indies of New Spain, trans. Doris Heyden (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), 203.

André Thevet, Les singvlaritez de la France antarctiqve (Paris: Heritiers de Maurice de la Porte, 1558), 92v—93v. My translation in consultation with sixteenth-century English translation quoted in Boehrer, Parrot Culture, 54, 52. Thevet and Léry (see below) are often problematic as sources for Tupinamba culture, but these particular descriptions are corroborated by other kinds of ethno-historical sources. On their status as sources, Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Harbsmeier, Introduction to Hans Staden’s True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil, ed. and trans. Whitehead and Harbsmeier (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), xxxi-xxxiii.

Jean de Léry, History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Otherwise Called America, trans. Janet Whatley (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 88.

In addition to sources below, see Amy J. Buono, ‘Feathered Identities and Plumed Performances: Tupinamba Interculture in Early Modern Brazil and Europe’ (PhD diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2008), 109-113. Henry Walter Bates, The Naturalist on the River Amazons, 2nd ed. (London: J. Murray, 1864), 256-257.

Howard, ‘Feathers as Ornaments,’ 50.

J. Christopher Crocker, ‘My Brother the Parrot,’ in The Social Use of Metaphor, ed. J. David Sapir and J. Christopher Crocker (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1977), 33.

Reina and Kensinger, eds., Gift of Birds; the articles in ‘Feather Creations: Materials, Production and Circulation,’ Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos, Coloquios (2006), http://nuevomundo.revues.Org/1234#newyork; Buono, ‘Feathered Identities’; Russo, ‘Plumes of Sacrifice’; Breton, Dictionaire Caraibe-Francois, 1: 80, 88, 180, 203, 2: 299; Roe, ed., Costumes & Featherwork.

Howard, ‘Feathers as Ornaments,’ 56, 60—61.

Crocker, ‘My Brother the Parrot,’ 34.

John Ogilvie quoted in Howard, ‘Feathers as Ornaments,’ 54

Citing Peter Roe, Howard, ‘Feathers as Ornaments,’ 58. For Tupinamba, Buono, ‘Feathered Identities,’ 90; for South American feather symbolism generally, see also Benson, Birds and Beasts, 73—74.

Elizabeth Netto Calil Zurur, ‘Social and Spiritual Languages of Feather Art: The Bororo of Central Brazil,’ in Gift of Birds, 31.

FC, 1: 1, 2, 3, 14-15, 17, 24.

Ibid., bk. 1, passim, and 2: 82, 86, 113, 149, 196. See also Francisco Hernández, Historia natural de Nueva España, ed. German Somolinos d’Ardois, 2 vols. (Mexico: Universidad Nacional de Mexico, 1959), 2: 319; Russo, ‘Plumes of Sacrifice,’ 230—236.

FC, 11: 19; Clendinnen, Aztecs, 218. For quetzal feathers in deities’ regalia, FC, 1: 2, 3, 5, 12, 13, 14, 16, 20. Quetzal and parrot feathers were among tribute levied by Aztecs (The Codex Mendoza, 3: 28r, 43r, 47r, 49r).

Russo, ‘Plumes of Sacrifice,’ 236.

Benson, Birds and Beasts, 75—76; Hernández, Historia natural, 2: 319.

Reina and Kensinger, eds., Gift of Birds; Roe, ed., Costumes & Featherwork; Vil-lamarin and Villamarin, ‘Chiefdoms,’ 2: 619, 621, 649; Frances Berdan, ‘Circulation of Feathers in Mesoamerica,’ in ‘Feather Creations,’ http://nuevomundo. revues.org/1387.

I offer an in-depth analysis of different models for the transmission of goods between cultures in Marcy Norton, ‘Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics,’ The American Historical Review 111 (2006): 661—670, and Sacred Gifts.

Carina L. Johnson, ‘Aztec Regalia and the Reformation of Display,’ in Collecting Across Cultures: Material Exchanges in the Early Atlantic World, ed. Daniela Bleichmar and Peter C. Mancall (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 88-92, 97-98. For European reception of Mesoatnerican ideas about hummingbirds, see Iris Montero Sobrevilla, ‘Transatlantic Hum: Natural History and the Torpid Humminbird, c.1500—1800’ (DPhil thesis, University of Cambridge, 2012).

Johnson, ‘Aztec Regalia,’ 90—91, 97.

Buono, ‘Feathered Identities,’ 302. See also Buono, ‘Crafts of Color.’

Russo, ‘Plumes of Sacrifice,’ 245.

Buono, ‘Feathered Identities,’ 195.

Christopher Columbus, The Diario of Christopher Columbus’s First Voyage to America, 1492—1493, transcribed and trans. Oliver Dunn and James E. Kelly, Jr. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), 223.

Anghiera, De Orbe Novo, 1: 64, 72, 154, 254.

Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes, Natural History of the West Indies, trans. Sterling A. Stoudemire (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), 60. Lery, 72, 88, 197, 201, 208; Hans Staden’s True History, 82, 96; Buono, ‘Feathered Identities,’ 106, 153, n. 287.

Surekha Davies, ‘Depictions of Brazilians on French Maps, 1542-1555,’ The Historical Journal 55:2 (2012), 1—32. I thank Peter Mancall for telling me about this image.

Louise E. Robbins, Elephant Slaves and Pampered Parrots: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century Paris (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 10, 122, 136, 150; Boehrer, Parrot Culture, 56.

Boehrer, Parrot Culture, 50, 55-73; Erwin Stresemann, Ornithology from Aristotle to the Present (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), 24—26.

Marc Shell ‘Family Pet,’ Representations 15 (1986): 121-153, esp. 123, 126, 129.

Quoted in Robbins, Elephant Slaves, 129.

Ibid., 142, 143; Boehrer, Parrot Culture.

James Serpell, In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human-Animal Relationships (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Canto), rev. ed. 1996), 72.

Francis Willughby and John Ray, The Ornithology of Francis Willughby (London: John Martyn, 1678), 123 and 128; Wafer, A New Voyage, 120.

Anghiera, De Orbe Novo, 265.

Shell, ‘Family Pet,’ 134—135; Kathleen Kete, The Beast in the Boudoir: Petkeeping in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), chs. 2 and 3, esp. 40. Keith Thomas writes that ‘by 1700 all the symptoms of obsessive pet-keeping were in evidence,’ (117) but I think he was including those animals that I consider ‘vassals’ in this category (Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500—1800 [London: Allen Lane, 1983]).

Jean-Baptiste Labat, Nouveau voyage aux isles de I’Amerique (The Hague: P. Husson, 1724), 2: 155—156.

Ibid., 2: 157.

Ibid., 2: 157—158.

Ibid., 2: 158—159.

Breton, Dictionaire, 2: 290; Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, A Voyage to South America, trans. John Adams, 5th ed. (London: J. Brettell, 1807), 1: 409.

Lery, Voyage, 208, 213, also 210.

Willughby and Ray, Ornithology, 117.

Ibid., 118.

The classic is Thomas, Man and the Natural World; see, for instance, the recent Nathaniel Wolloch, Subjugated Animals: Animals and Anthropocentrism in Early Modern European Culture (Amherst: Humanity Books, 2006).

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