Thousands of birds from South East Asia took part in Thailand's unique annual bird singing competition which was held in Ruesco district in the southern province of Narathiwat this weekend. The birds primarily belong to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, and come to take part in the competition every year. They compete on the basis of pitch, melody, and volume of their songs or the trained sounds that they make. A cash prize of £18,000 was set for the winning bird this year. Bird-singing contests are quite common in Thailand. There are weekly and annual contests on the southern island of Ko Samui.
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Nestled in their cages the birds sat perched on poles awaiting the judges. They were kept in ornate bamboo cages draped with elaborate and colourful cloths. Just when the competition began, the cages were hoisted onto hooks suspended around three meters high on the metal grid. Thousands of spectators flocked in to see the incredible view and listen to the birds.
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The most common bird singing contest is not about the quality of birdsong, but about quantity. Known as “singing in four rounds”, it’s a question of how many times the bird will sing in a given period. The timekeeper stands on a platform with his equipment such as a whistle, a microphone, a large clear glass jar filled with water, and an ornamental tin bowl with a hole in the bottom of it. He blows the whistle by placing the bowl on the surface of the water to begin the session. With time, the bowl gradually fills and finally sinks. Just when it touches the bottom of the jar, the whistle goes off again, with each session lasting approximately 20 to 25 seconds.
There are generally four rounds, during which each bird must sing at least three times in order to advance to the next round. Expert birds may trill as many as eight times in around. The bird owners lean against ropes strung to keep them back, yelling and whistling to their birds to encourage them. It's actually a wonder that the judges can hear anything, but they do! As the competition proceeds, the numbers are whittled down as birds fail to keep up with the pace until finally a winner is declared.
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