Many of the 10,000 or so bird species on the planet are pretty, melodic or tasty. But birds are much more than that. Over the centuries, humankind has come up with some distinctive and surprising ways to take advantage of the unique abilities of our feathered friends. At various points in the history of civilizations, birds have served as hunters, guides and messengers. And we haven’t run out of new things for them to do. Farmers have employed raptors to strike terror into the hearts of crop-destroying birds, such as starlings and seagulls, scattering them back into the wild. With the proper training, birds might one day perform search and rescue.

With a nod to International Migratory Bird Day, May 11, here is a slide show showcasing many of the ways we have teamed up with our avian counterparts.

View the Birds of Burden slide show.