Conservationists call for sustainable business practices to protect wild native songbirds

SINGAPORE – Some conservationists here are calling on songbird owners and pet stores to source their birds sustainably, to ensure the chirps, chirps and whistles of warblers will continue to be heard in the wild .

To keep the songbird trade clean and sustainable, owners and pet stores should choose captive-bred birds over wild-caught birds, and sustainably sourced birds should be tagged with a ring or band.

Retailers must also keep and show records of where they obtain their birds from.

These are some of the recommendations from a recently published article that profiled 114 songbird owners between 2018 and 2019 to understand their birding hobbies and preferences and learn more about the importance of bird singing competitions.

The study, overseen by Dr Anuj Jain, bird trade coordinator at conservation group BirdLife International, was published last month in the journal Bird Conservation International.

The hobby of keeping songbirds in cages and entering them in bird singing competitions is popular in Southeast Asia, including Singapore.

It is believed that the keeping of pet birds here began in the 1950s.

For decades, songbird owners have spent their weekday mornings and weekends setting up their caged pets in designated hanging spots and cafes, and chatting with other hobbyists while the birds try to chirp and fool each other.

Although monthly competitions at the Kebun Baru Birdsinging Club have been suspended since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, crowds of enthusiasts turn up every morning and on weekends at its grounds at Ang Mo Kio to train their songbirds. .

One of them is Mr. William Chua, 72, a school bus driver who has been training his zebra doves in the field every morning for more than 25 years, only taking a break during the Chinese New Year holidays.

At one time, he was taking up to 10 birds out into the field each day. He also helped train his friends’ pets.

“I like raising zebra doves because when you hear their voices, you feel like you’re in the countryside.”

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