Bekenu annual bird-singing contest attracts big crowd

The contest starts.

By Jaythaleela K

MIRI, March 4: The sounds of some 1,000 indigenous birds singing and chirping resonated clearly at the Bekenu Multipurpose Hall yesterday.

More than 1,000 bird enthusiasts, including the bird owners, witnessed this annual spectacle and enjoyed the birdsong competition, which was held for the second year running, in Bekenu.

Some came as early as 6am even though they knew guest-of-honour Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas would only turn up at 10am to get the contest going.

The 650 bird owners, who came with their prized possessions in ornate bamboo cages, comprised not only locals, with some of them coming from as far as Brunei and Indonesia.

Uggah (clad in green shirt) lifts a cage as a launching symbolic gesture to get the contest going.

Prior to the contest, the cages were fitted onto hooks and raised high into the air. Between three and four judges, with two from Indonesia, later paced back and forth under each cage to pick the winners.

Traditionally, the judges give each bird a certain amount of time to impress them. The judges will listen carefully and award points based on pitch, melody, clarity, stamina, modulation and even volume.

When the contest started, the proud bird owners and supporters started rooting for their favourite “singers” loudly. Some clapped their hands to encourage the birds to be at their best. The atmosphere resembled that of a keenly fought football match.

Even Uggah, who was accompanied by Sibuti MP Lukanisman Awang Sauni, Bekenu assemblywoman Rosey Yunus and Lambir assemblymen Ripin Lamat, was amazed by what he saw.

“Today (Sunday) is the very first time I witnessed a bird singing contest. I find it very interesting and exciting,” he said.

Uggah, who allocated RM20,000 to the organiser, Kelab Pencinta Burung Miri, believed that such an event could become a tourist attraction, especially for Bekenu.

He suggested that the next edition of the contest be held in his hometown of Betong.

The contest this year was divided into six categories: (1) ‘Murai Batu Kepala Hitam’, (2) ‘Murai Batu Kepala Putih’, (3) ‘Murai Kampung’, (4) ‘Serindit (Hanging Parrot)’, (5) ‘Burung Mata Putih’ and (6) Love Bird.

Meanwhile, Kelab Pencinta Burung Miri member Erwin Geoffery Ussan, 37, said he had been involved in this activity for five years now.

Erwin Geoffery Ussan

He revealed that the sound of birds chirping and singing gave him immense satisfaction. In fact, that was what got him addicted to this hobby.

He said birds that had won prizes could be sold for a lot of money.

“Such birds can fetch up to thousands of ringgit,” said Erwin, who drove all the way from Bintangor to participate in the competition.

He owns two ‘Murai Batu Kepala Putih’, which are easily found in Sabah but are not so common in Sarawak.

Another bird lover, Water Wan, admitted that he was not fond of such an activity initially, but after listening to birds belonging to his friends chirping and singing, he took up this hobby seriously.

Water Wan with his ‘Murai Batu Kepala Putih’.

“I enjoy bird singing very much,” he said when met at the Bekenu Multipurpose Hall yesterday.

Like Erwin, Water is the proud owner of a ‘Murai Batu Kepala Putih’.

“I bought it from Sabah. Over there (Sabah), you need to have a licence to own the bird. So, when I bought this bird (pointing to his ‘Murai Batu Kepala Putih’ in a bamboo cage), I applied for a licence,” he said. — DayakDaily