lovers look at a bullfinch.
IS a bird worth more in hand, than in the bush?
Lovers of bullfinches certainly seem to think so. In the
past decade there has been a growing demand for bullfinches
by individuals who rear these birds firstly for the sweet
notes they belt out at morning time; and to take part in
the numerous bird-singing competitions taking place in south,
central and east Trinidad.
On August 26, Reyaz Alfie Hosein, manager of
Alfies Pet Shop at Warrenville, Cunupia, staged the
areas first major bird-singing competition. It saw
competitors coming from as far as Point Fortin, Mayaro and
Sangre Grande to the central venue to compete for trophies
and prizes. Scores of birdmen, as they are fondly
called, treaded on the muddy patch of land known as the
Stalagnite Recreation Ground to have their birds face off.
Hosein said the sport, commonly known as coot bulling,
has been growing in popularity among the younger generation,
having for decades attracted a cadre of elderly and middle-aged
Philip Carmona shows off his bullfinch
In competitions like these birds are placed in cages three
to five feet apart, depending on their level of maturity.
The bird that sings the most rolls or songs, wins.
The competition takes an experienced ear to judge and is
done in the presence of the owners and an individual known
as an objector who pays close attention to which
bird first starts the whistling sequence and checks the
number of rolls sung by the birds for 15 minutes.
Hosein said the bullfinch remains the bird of choice followed
by picoplats and canaries. He said the T&T bullfinch
is bigger and rarer than its Venezuelan counterpart and
fetches $500 for a wild bird compared to the $200 price
tag for its South American relative. He said the local variety
sings better but is hard to find.
The value of the bird skyrockets as its singing ability
increases. Top birds can fetch prices between $2,000 to
$10,000. Some birdmen said they keep their best singers
indoors, away from bandits.
Getting into bird training is easy, says Hosein. The minimum
start-up of cage, feed and bird can cost around $500. He
said birds are trained using a CD recording; however, most
birdmen take their birds to shy.
This is a process where cages are lined up next to each
other on savannahs or other quiet places where the inexperienced
singer can mimic the notes from a seasoned bird. Hosein
said birds have varying ability that creates the differences
in their singing.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Philip Carmona, who headed
the Southern Division before he left on pre-retirement leave,
was one of the many birdmen at the venue. Carmona said:
This is a fantastic sport. I grew up in Palo Seco
and since I was small I had an interest in birds. When I
came to Chaguanas I was introduced to a man named Deo from
Carapichaima. I saw the enthusiasm and the growing love
for the sport and I decided to get involved. I recently
went down to Palo Seco for a police town meeting and I saw
a lot of youths involved, but they did not know how to organise
competitions. I arranged a seminar and showed the rudiments
of how its done.
Carmona said the Palo Seco event was highlighted in the
media and he had received four trophies from sponsors in
the United States for a competition he had planned for Harris
Promenade in San Fernando.
Carmona said the potential for bird-whistling is enormous
and he hopes to get the Tourism Development Corporation
to promote the sport at an international level and have
it highlighted on Amazing Games. Carmona said bird-whistling
also holds a lot of potential in getting young people to
spend their idle time in a constructive manner and away
from untoward activity.