Dissertation Title:

Poultry, Parrots, and People: Exploring Psyche Through the Lens of Avian Captivity


Elizabeth MacLeod Burton-Crow

Date, Time & Place:

December 11, 2018 at 12:45 pm
Room A, Ladera Lane Campus


What was the last interaction you had with a bird? Was it a cordial conversation with a parrot or indirectly, as while devouring deviled eggs? The colorful ways in which avian and human lives are connected are as nuanced as they are pervasive. Perhaps this is unsurprising, given that globally, birds are held in captivity by the billions. Despite the massive scale at which our lives intersect, we often fail to recognize the psychological aspects of bird confinement. This project dives below the surface to examine the largely unconscious forces that underlie bird captivity by exploring psychosocial dynamics between poultry, parrots, and people. Employing a heuristic methodology, emergent themes are woven into a 30-minute film, A Bird Tail to develop conscientização, the cultivation of a critical awareness of how captivity shapes avian-human relationships, the psyches of individual humans and birds, and ultimately our collective, trans-species cultures. Told from the perspective of an avian alchemist, the film explicitly navigates across species lines through imagery and voice by providing a bird’s eye view of numerous challenges faced by captive-held birds, including death, disease, and trauma. A central purpose of this exploration is to bring these subsurface currents to light so that we as humans can begin to dissolve those psychological constructs and projections that prevent authentic cross-species connection and cause such profound harm.


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  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psychology with Specialization in Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, and Ecopsychology, Track P, 2010
  • Chair: Dr. G. A. Bradshaw
  • Reader: Dr. Craig Chalquist
  • External Reader: Dr. Jo-Ann Shelton
  • Keywords: Birds, Captivity, Parrots, Poultry, Alchemy, Trans-species Psychology