A big morning at the bird club

There was a big competition at the bird club a couple blocks down my street this morning. I had walked out on a circuitous route to get some fried bananas, sticky rice, peppered pork, and planting pots. With the bag of food in my left arm and my right arm wrapped around a stack of three rather large pots, I rounded the corner onto the southern end of Raksa Road and started heading north.

I heard the cheers and exhortations, and then the birdsong, before the club was even in view. As I got closer and saw all the motorcycles parked in front, I knew there must be a big competition on.

On a usual day, I see afficionados at the club enjoying tea in the shade of the pavilion.The adjacent event lawn at the club, for those who haven’t seen it during a competition, could be mistaken most days for a vacant lot with empty clotheslines over some indifferent weeds.

Red-whiskered bulbul at a singing competition in southern Thailand

This all transforms on competition days. Birds are brought in their cloth-draped cages by motorcycle, from all over town, and from the surrounding countryside. After arriving at the club the cloth is removed, the cages are hung up on the event lawn, and the singing competition begins.

This article in the Phuket News describes the rules in some detail, after first setting the scene:

Bird singing contests take place all over Thailand but are particularly popular in the south, where big competitions can attract hundreds of entrants and big prize money.

At first, watching a songbird contest can be confusing. There’s a lot of shouting and people waving their hands. It all seems a bit chaotic.

The birds had banana and papaya in their cages during today’s contest
Micah Woods
Micah Woods

Scientist, author, consultant, and founder of the Asian Turfgrass Center

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