Rainforest Birds Do Battle in New York City Parks
Posted by Richard Conniff on August 1, 2015
A month or two back, I wrote about the devastating effects of the reliance on tropical birds for singing contests in Indonesia. Today The New York Times reports that much the same thing is happening right here in New York City:
Ray Harinarain cut the lusty Hellcat engine of his Dodge Challenger and gently lifted his birdcage from the front seat.
Mr. Harinarain, a heating and air-conditioner repairman from Brooklyn, joined a procession of middle-aged men in fedoras and flat caps, cradling wood poles and cages the size of large shoe boxes, streaming into a pocket-size park in Richmond Hill, Queens, on a recent Sunday morning. The cages were blanketed in white coverlets, some trimmed with lace. Inside each one was a delicate songbird: a chestnut-bellied seed finch native to the northern parts of South America and the Caribbean.
Sundays are race days, though the events are not really races but speed-singing contests. Two cages each containing a male finch, whose fierce calls are triggered by an instinctive desire to woo females and defend turf, are hung on a pole about an inch apart. The birds are judged on the number of songs they sing. The first to reach 50 wins.
Ostensibly, it’s a battle of the birds. But …