Tranquil noon at Yuen Po’s Bird Street

A series of caged magpie robins with the cloth cover partially unfurled as the sun rises

A birder with his pet

I was invited by AirPhil Express to join them in their maiden flight from Cebu to Hong Kong and stayed for almost a week to explore, photograph and get to know more about this beautiful place south of the Chinese mainland. A tweet, a wiggle, a flutter. The magpie robin, with its jet black plumage and a strip of white at its wings was hopping on its perch and darting and tried flying around the rather small wooden cage. Curious, I came closer and tried looking at the bird, hoping that it will calm down and stay put, just enough time for me to snap a photo. But it did not.

A line of supply stores.

Bird Street in Yuen Po, Mongkok is famous for the songbird owners who congregate in this strip to meet other owners, buy supplies and other songbird species. It is a beautiful but small park with moon gates, airy and the sound of chirping and singing birds make this place tranquil, a far contrast at Canton Road where mainlanders line up at high end boutiques.

Adult and immature crickets are raised and sold as food for the birds

Tired from the walk and heat, I just spent time roaming around its pathways, sitting and observing the owners carrying their pets in beautiful wooden and lacquered cages in different sizes. Each cage varying from the simple to the artistically done. Some are decorated with elaborate cricket holders, carved wood with iron prongs or clips to hold the insect.

The range of bird species is also notable in this area: thrush, magpie robins, macaws, orioles, parrots, finches, mynahs, and more.

A caged thrush hung along Bird Street

Carved wooden decor used to hold crickets

Keeping songbirds as a pet has a long tradition in mainland China going back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). For more than 2,000 thousand years, songbird owners, all men, meet at parks to sun their pets and socialize with other owners. Its a pastime that, some say, keeps these men from fooling around, or indulging in vices.

With the Chinese diaspora, they have brought this tradition to many countries around the world and that’s why its common to see in many places where there is a big Chinese community.

Bird Street is really a nice place to just linger, rest and enjoy the cool breeze and the melodious sounds of the songbirds. Its far from the bustle and chaos of other tourist attractions around Hong Kong. Definitely a place to visit and while away time.

This trip was made possible by AirPhil Express. Like their Facebook page to keep updated of promos and cheap fares.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

6 Comments

  1. Karl
    September 5, 2011 @ 19:08

    i see that some cages may be a bit small for the bird and some are just the right size. Are cage makers also in the vicinity?

  2. estan
    September 5, 2011 @ 22:50

    @karl, i’m not really so sure if cage makers are also there.

  3. edmaration
    September 7, 2011 @ 13:37

    very nice. Within a concrete jungle is another missing jungle.

  4. Chris
    September 9, 2011 @ 12:49

    What an interesting location! I bet it sounds somewhere between amazing and awful, haha

  5. Rica
    September 13, 2011 @ 1:30

    Hi! I was trying to fill up the contact form but there’s a problem with it. Hope you can email me. =)

  6. » A riot of blossoms at Hong Kong’s flower market | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    September 23, 2011 @ 16:39

    […] been reading about this market, one of three that is popular that includes Bird Street as well as Goldfish Market for pets. After a brief saunter at the former, I was just amazed at the […]

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