In Istanbul, aviculture has denoted different things at different times. During Ottoman times, the term generally referred to hawks and falcons raised at the imperial palaces for recreational hunting. But it also encompassed canaries kept by the Ottoman court for the beauty of their song. Official texts from the period reveal a fair amount about the nature of aviculture at the time.
Moving on to the end of the 19th century, aviculture came to refer to enthusiasts who kept songbirds such as the goldfinch, greenfinch, siskin and chaffinch. More often than not, enthusiasts belonged to Istanbul's Greek and Armenian minorities. But it's virtually impossible to find any written sources on the aviculture of this time aside from the odd neighbourhood study or brief notes in works of literature.
The tradition of keeping goldfinches and greenfinches is still kept up by a handful of Istanbul residents in neighbourhoods that have managed, at least in part, to preserve their former social fabric. In this case, aviculture means catching specific wild birds, keeping them in cages and meeting usually in 'birdmen' cafes during the song season to entice the birds to sing by turns.
Today, when much of Istanbul culture is fast disappearing, the tradition of keeping birds goes beyond nostalgia for the city's past and stands as testimony to a period and the vibrant social and cultural make-up of the people living in that period.
The film Birdmen of Istanbul takes a look at a handful of bird enthusiasts who perpetuate the tradition today and seeks in so doing to shed light on this unique culture.
watch film: www.istanbulunkusculari.com/wa…
Film is in Turkish, for english subtitles press "cc" at the downright.