Seadogs and their Parrots: The reality of ‘Pretty Polly’

By Megan C. Hagseth, published May 2018


The relationship between sailors and tropical birds is often ignored because of its association with swashbuckling pirates and their winged sidekicks. Links to pirates in popular culture such as Treasure Island’s Long John Silver and Captain Flint have led to many misconceptions about the social functions of avian pets in the seafaring community. The transportation of parrots from exotic locations into western culture provides a unique opportunity to study the seamen involved in this exchange and lends insight into how this group t into the larger social paradigm of European and American culture. Focusing on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this analysis draws on evidence from primary accounts, newspapers, legal documents, artwork, and archaeology to identify the social functions of bird ownership among sailors.

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Filed under: Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (Eighteenth C) | Other (location)
Subjects include: Manpower & Life at Sea | Merchant Marines | Science & Exploration

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