Lonely Planet Writer

One of Thailand's biggest bird-singing contests attracts thousands of spectators

One of Thailand’s biggest annual bird-singing contests took place in the southern province of Narathiwat today.

Birds sit in their cages during a bird-singing contest in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat.
Birds sit in their cages during a bird-singing contest in Thailand’s southern province of Narathiwat. Image by MADAREE TOHLALA/AFP/Getty Images

The birds are placed in ornate bamboo cages which are covered with bright, colourful fabric. When they’re ready to sing, the cages and lifted onto hooks and raised high into the air. This year more than 1000 birds took part in the competition, with enthusiasts travelling from all over Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to take part. The contest also attracts thousands of spectators from Southeast Asia who gather to take in the spectacle and enjoy the birdsong.

People sit and watch birds hoisted on poled in their cages during a bird-singing contest.
People sit and watch birds hoisted on poled in their cages during a bird-singing contest. Image by MADAREE TOHLALA/AFP/Getty Images

Traditionally, the judges will give each bird a set amount of time to impress them. The judges will listen carefully – even counting the amount of times the birds chirp –  and award points based on their melody, pitch, clarity, stamina, modulation and volume. The time limit is measured by floating a tiny bowl in water; when it begins to sink, the time is up.

A man hoists a cage with a zebra dove during the bird-singing contest.
A man hoists a cage with a zebra dove during the bird-singing contest. Image by MADAREE TOHLALA/AFP/Getty Images

Bird-singing contests are quite common in Thailand, with weekly and annual contests being held on the southern island of Ko Samui. Winners can claim prize money and trophies and many contestants spend a huge amount of time and money acquiring and caring for their birds.