Four calling birds face conservation concerns

The orange-headed thrush is a top competitor in bird-singing contests and a species with a declining population. Credit: Khao Yai National Park

If you’re expecting calling birds during the twelve days of Christmas, you may not be alone. In many countries keeping wild birds is common, and recent singing contests, pitting male birds against one another, have become popular. That raises new conservation concerns.

A Cornell Lab of Ornithology literature review found that bird-singing contests take place in at least 22 countries using at least 36 species of birds. “Today these contests drive demand in the global songbird trade, especially in Southeast Asia, where more bird species are threatened by trade than in any other region of the world,” said Ben Mirin, a PhD student at the Cornell Lab and lead author of a recent study in Global Ecology and Conservation. Bird-singing contests can put pressure on wild bird population. Among the top competitors are the white-rumped shama (Copsychus malabaricus), brown-headed barbet (Megalaima zeylanica) and orange-headed thrush (Geokichla citrina), all of which have declining populations.

Read more from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.