A Bird Song ContestWednesday, 21 July 2010
Driving along the west coast of the Thai island of Ko Samui I came upon a bird singing contest. There’s a rectangular area with four clothesline-like wires run down it. Hung from the wires are bird cages, in groups of 4 by 4, so 16 in a group. There were 7 groups in all (so 112 bird cages) plus perhaps 20 or 30 more either non-starters, held in reserve or something!
The birds are all red-whiskered bulbul (nok krong hua juck) and just as I arrive the covers are swept off the cages and the contest starts. At a whistle sound they all start to sing, their owners (all male) listening intently. After 30 seconds the whistle is blown again and a marker-pen-toting scorer moves in to each group of 16 and marks the some of the red cards hanging beneath the cages.
The whistle blows again and another scoring period commences. What’s it all about? How do you score them? With 100+ birds all chirping away together how do you separate one from the other? I’ve no idea, but it was fascinating. Click here for a link to a paper on dove cooing contests in Thailand, which also mentions the red-whiskered bulbul.