1st photo: at competition
My first encounter with the custom of raising singing birds in Brasil came as my husband and I were on our way out from the home we were renting at Enseada Beach. I saw the most curious thing (the word curious is most appropriate to this story). There was an elderly man walking down the street with a bird cage in his hand, and in that cage was a small bird. Of course, I asked Charles if the man was coo-coo (no pun intended), and he told me about the people who catch birds from the wild and/or raise them from birth for purposes of competing against other bird owners. The birds that sing the longest and the sweetest songs are the champs, and they can fetch a pretty penny for their owners. If the bird is exceptional, it is worth its weight in gold. The most highly prized bird for singing is the curio, a small bird akin to the canary. It has a very sweet song and can fetch upwards of $R30,000! For as long as we lived at the beach house, I would see that man, every day walk his bird. What he was doing was allowing the bird to hear other birds in order to make him sing more. Owners believe giving their birds the opportunity to socialize with other birds will make them the best singers. It’s important to note that most birds are bought for much less money, but it is the daily care and training that turns an ordinary curio or trinca ferro into a champion.
When we moved up on the hill in Jaragua do Sul, we had a builder come and do some work on the house and property we purchased. The first day he was there, he pointed up into the trees and said something to Charles in Portuguese. Charles later told me that the man had heard a black robin in the tree and if he could catch it, it would make him rich. For the duration of his building project, he would do everything in his power to coax that bird out of the tree. He brought special food, whistled, and darn near tried to climb the tree trying to catch the bird with the beautiful voice. It was an obsession for the builder.
It was no surprise to me that the painters we hired to paint the interior of the home we bought in Itajuba brought with them each day their birds in cages. Before setting up to do the painting, their first order of business was to find a lofty spot above the second-story balcony, or in the carport from which to hang their cages. There were two birds, each in its own cage, and we would hear their sweet songs all day long. The owners of those birds would often look up and tweet at them to get them to start singing. It was a real sight to see grown men behave so affectionately toward their feathered friends. But, of course, how could they not? Those birds might some day be their ticket out of poverty.