It was a perfect Singapore morning. Blue skies dotted with puffs of cloud, warm weather but not warm enough to deter people from venturing outside (that comes later in the day in Singapore), and the sound of birds singing. Yes, the sounds of dozens of birds singing echoed around the park on the edge of Ang Mo Kio Town Garden and a housing block.
While there are dozens of places to experience nature in Singapore to visit a bird singing corner, like Kebun Baru Bird Corner, is a treasured weekly ritual for avian lovers.
These men’s most prized possession is their bird. Housed in ornately decorated cages – some hand carved from rosewood and sporting jade food bowls – with colourful draped covers, the ritual is to bring their pet to the corner to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air as they are hoisted up a 20 foot pole while the men drink coffee, play chess or checkers and chat.
This corner is home to the Kebun Bahru Bird Singing club and their members often compete in bird singing competitions alongside their morning meets.
When asked what type of bird is the best singer the answer was unanimous – the zebra dove.
Known locally as ‘merbok’ – their Malay name – the small grey bird with blue markings on its face and ‘zebra stripes’ around its neck looked like a small pigeon. I was assured it wasn’t.
These birds are prized for their singing ability and can cost upwards of S$1,500, with a record sale of one for S$96,000 happening just recently.
Their soft, staccato coos are surprisingly relaxing and I was informed that the deeper, slower voices are the most prized and sought after.
Unfortunately, I noticed that most of the men tending to their birds were elderly gentlemen in their 50s, 60s and 70s which makes me wonder if this sight will soon be gone; much like at nearby Tiong Bahru, a famous bird singing corner in Singapore which now sits silently. I hope not.
My driver explained to me that, for many, this is a stress release in an otherwise hectic city. It’s a place to sit back and relax with the birds voices filling the air and all thoughts of the daily bustle pushed from their minds. Or at least, they were pushed out of mine for just a short-time.
Now it’s over to you
What do you think of these bird singing corners?
Have you seen anything like this elsewhere in the world?
Kebun Baru Bird Singing Club
Block 159 on Ang Mo Kio Avenue, 5
(The western corner of Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West)
Directions: Take the North-South MRT line towards Jurong East. Alight at either Ang Mo Kio or Yio Chu Kang. From here it’s about a 13-15 minute walk to the park. The park also has a large car park where taxis can drop you off or you can park your vehicle.
A map is available on the Bird Clubs website.
Notes: Owners will bring their birds out from as early as 5:45am every day though weekends are most popular. Most people will stay until the days heat sets in (usually around lunch time). Come around 10-10:30am for the busiest time of day.
Like any animal, birds will get nervous if you are unfamiliar and get too close so be cautious of space when approaching the low-hanging birds.
I visited Singapore as a guest of the Singapore Tourism Board.
All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.