A Travellerspoint blog

The Birdcage

I found this so interesting it deserved its own blog post

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While walking the streets of Guyana, a small birdcage would catch my eye here and there, until I started to notice a bit of a trend. There were an unusually large amount of men holding birdcages while standing in the streets, or in stores, or at bars. And then, I saw a birdcage sitting in the middle of our already packed van to Mahdia. I just had to ask what the deal was...

It turns out, men in Guyana like to take part in something called bird whistle fighting. Yes, I said bird whistle fighting.

Imagine a man carrying a birdcage, about a sq.ft. in size, with a small bird inside. It’s not just any bird though, it’s called the towa towa and is infamous for its ability to whistle on cue. Once a challenge has been proposed, they meet on Sunday mornings (as early as 5am) and set up the draped birdcages on poles to face each other while the crowds gather. When they are ready to begin, they uncover the cages and the birds go back and forth whistling at each other until a winner is declared. How do they pick a winner? According to locals: you just know. But from an article I found online in a Guyanese newspaper, the official rules are that “the first bird to whistle 50 times wins the wager.”

Apparently it takes a lot of hard work and dedication for the owner to train his bird to whistle at the proper pitch and speed, on cue. It involves feeding it a special diet so the bird will grow in size and seem more intimidating to its adversary, as well as playing recordings of the proper whistling sound in order for the bird to learn to imitate it. The value of the birds go up with every game they’ve won, some selling for as much as $250-$2000!

Considered a prized possession, you see men walking around with their towa towa birdcages everywhere in Guyana.

This was our bus driver to Mahdia and his towa towa that made the journey with us, alternating on people's laps.

Posted by Noemad 18:09 Archived in Guyana Tagged towa_towa

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