There are many bird corners in Singapore, such as Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, Serangoon North Avenue 1 and Bukit Purmei, but probably none is as old as the one at Tiong Bahru.
Formerly known as Tiong Bahru Bird Arena, the bird corner was situated at one end of the demolished Block 53. It has been around for more than 50 years since the sixties, and was once a favourite gathering place for countless bird lovers from all around Singapore, and even from Malaysia and Thailand. When the old blocks were torn down in 2007 to build the current Link Hotel, the bird corner was preserved and renovated.
In the past, hundreds of bird-lovers would gather here on weekend mornings, admiring each others’ prized pets in their nicely decorated cages, chatting and sipping coffee at Ting Heng Kopitiam just beside the bird corner. In fact, the bird corner was a brilliant idea of the former owner of the kopitiam, who started it to attract more businesses.
Tiong Bahru bird corner even gained global fame in the late eighties when a Dutch reporter Guus van Bladel wrote about it, attracting attention from other reporters in United States, Holland and Japan. It prompted Dutch airline KLM to sponsor hooks, number tags and even bird-singing competitions.
Currently, the bird corner boasts more than 320 hooks with number tags, but no bird cages are found, not to mention the song birds. Despite spending $200,000 by the hotel in the renovation, the corner failed to regain its former glory. Gone were the enthusiastic owners with their songbirds such as jambu, sharma and mata puteh. Today, the corner is quiet and deserted, unnoticed even by the passers-by.
Let’s hope the half-a-century-old bird corner will be filled with the chirping and songs of birds again.
Published: 02 June 2011
Updated: 13 June 2013
This is really such a pity. My father, my family, we had so many great memories there. Well, I’m glad at least the bird corner still actually exists. Thanks so much for this great blog!
I think there use to be a bird shop where the ground floor of the link hotel is now. I guess it grow from the bird corner. Bukit Purmei still has quite a number of folks bringing their birds there .
Really? I know there used to be kopitiam beside the bird corner, where the bird lovers would gather, drink coffee and appreciate the singing competitions held…
Think its past glory will never return
Do you know of any remaining bird corners that still function? I saw a bunch of what I think was bird hooks in Sembawang area a year or so ago and have been struggling to find out WHEN there are birds there, would be a beautiful site to photograph. They did not look like this though, they were tall steel poles in a field… any idea?
The largest bird singing arena is now at the open field near Blk 159 Ang Mo Kio Ave 5. Every morning merbok are hung up for training. On Sunday mornings there are a variety of birds on display.
I’ve found one at Tanglin Halt that fits your description of tall steel poles to hang the cages!
Go Jurong west St 81. Blk 816 during sat, sun and ph. The bird lovers will gather there as early as 530am to 1pm. Easily you can find 500 cages or sometimes more than a thousand.
The old tiong bahru bird corner during its “happier” days
Block 53 with a kopitiam stood beside it before it was torn down and replaced by the current hotel
(Photo Credit: The Straits Times)
may i have this picture for enlarge? my late father was inside.( left 3 , with white shirt)
Thank You . Anne Loke
Thank you for bringing back the memories. I spent quite a bit of my high school days living in Tiong Bahru… the bird corner was among one of the many other attractions in the area. I read with sadness the passing of one of the many traditions that used to exist… a place that I used to recommend to my many friends abroad to visit! I guess the bird corner could not have continued without the old-style kopi-tiam and its many customers!
Hi, I was wondering if you knew what the number tags were for?
Maybe they’re used for identification purposes by the various owners, when they hang their cages?
All quiet at once-chirpy Balestier bird shop
The Straits Times
Thursday, Aug 01, 2013
SINGAPORE – Once upon a time, if you wanted to buy an eagle, you would head to Ann Soon Hong Bird Shop. But the Balestier establishment – believed to be the oldest bird shop in Singapore – has shut its doors after a 60-year run. The family business closed last month after avian flu and a lack of interest in songbirds took their toll.
It is a quiet end for the shop, which until the 1980s, was an exotic pet business and had TV stars like Chew Chor Meng as patrons. Owner Jenny Teo, 60, blamed the regional flu outbreak for its closure. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) suspended imports of live birds from traditional sources like Indonesia in late 2003.
Madam Teo could once sell songbirds like the mata puteh, or oriental white-eye, for as little as $6. But in recent years, she had to import birds from far-flung places such as Europe.
“People would say, ‘Huh? A songbird for $150?’ and then leave without buying,” she said. Nowadays, songbirds such as mata puteh cost more than $100, and some can even fetch a four-figure sum.
Another problem: Youngsters are not interested in songbirds.
“Singaporeans now are only interested in shopping and movies,” she said. “Who cares about buying birds any more?”
Other bird shops here are facing tough times. Several have packed up. The number of shops approved to sell birds has dwindled to 46 this year, from 81 shops 10 years ago. At Serangoon North, business has been hard for shops such as Chua’s Pets Trading. Its 62-year-old owner, Mr Chua Thiam Chuan, said the three-decade- old store has seen costs rise by 30 per cent because it imports from countries in Africa and Europe.
It has also been battered by the economic downturn and lack of interest in owning birds.
“This place used to be full of passers- by,” said Mr Chua, pointing at the empty walkway outside his shop. “Now we get only a little bit of interest from young people in their 20s and 30s.”
For now, birdsong still rings out in Serangoon North’s bird-watching corner. Dozens of enthusiasts – many, older men – hang up ornate cages housing their songbirds, to admire them over a cup of coffee every morning. One of the younger ones is Mr Alex Lum, 45, who has been rearing songbirds since childhood and now has more than 20 of them. He thinks young people will rear songbirds if their parents encourage them to join in but one huge deterrent is the cost.
“If a songbird can cost up to $1,000, why not buy an iPad instead?”
(Photo Credit: Shirley Ng http://www.flickr.com/photos/indulgences/6365803459/)
Hi! I am a student working on a project regarding Tiong Bahru and the recents cafes and restaurants that have appeared in the area. I have read your blog and your thoughts on the tiong bahru bird corner. Would you be so kind as to help me fill up this survey regarding your thoughts about the changes and preserving Tiong Bahru estate? It will take less than 10 mins at most, thank you for your time!
p.s Your blog is a enjoyable read about the places in Singapore that I myself am unaware of. Thank you!
Link : https://docs.google.com/forms/d/128jBWQvfCb0gLEqJdvfQpfyn6000PHwqdV4losiEzuI/viewform
Survey filled. Hope it helps 🙂
Hi I find the part about the desolation at the new bird corner striking. Why is it that bird lovers do not return to the renovated corner? Is it because they have shifted somewhere else?
You are right, they have shifted.
Most of these people were residents of Tiong Buhru.
Their flats being torn down as well as most have passed away contributed to the desolation.
The Esso petrol station opposite Block 54 Tiong Bahru Road (now Link Hotel) in the 1970s.
It was later demolished. Wangz Hotel stands in its place today
(Photo credit: http://ride.asiaone.com/)
I visited Tiong Bahru in the 1980’s, seeking it out on a weekend during a business trip. Sorry to learn it’s gone, but glad to learn about Serangoon North and Chua’s Pets Trading. My wife, on her first trip to Singapore, and I may stop by towards the end of next week. Thanks for the 2013 updates.
My husband and I visited Tiong Bahru Early Morning Birdsong on a few occasions when holidaying in Singapore from New Zealand. Wish to visit again. Glad the arena is still there but if the housing has also been torn down can understand why the bird song mornings have moved elsewhere.
It have move to corner beside neo crescent market
Is between blk 44a and 38a beo crescent market
Sorry, didn’t see this comment before my reply. You reference the same location I do.
There is a small bird corner located in the Beo Crescent hdb, just beside the wet market. It is still used, mostly on the weekends, in the morning by approximately a dozen uncles. Two kinds of birds I have seen there, the white eyed Mata Puteh and another I do not know.
“Bird Singing Contest at Cairnhill Community Centre
Though most locals can’t be certain on the origins of bird-rearing in Singapore, chances are it came about during the mid-1950s, when the Singapore Cage Bird Society was formed by families of the British Armed Forces.
Over the years, Singaporeans would slowly begin to appreciate the beauty of these birds (commonly the Mata Puteh, China Thrush and Red Whiskered Bulbul), both in terms of physique and the soothing sounds they produce.
Bird-singing competitions soon became a regular occurrence, resulting in the rise of numerous bird-singing corners in void-decks and communal spaces alike, with notable ones such as the Tiong Bahru bird-singing corner and the Kebun Bahru bird-singing club.”
(Source: National Heritage Board)
There is one at blk 26 Teck Whye lane. About 30-40 birds.
I am pleased to know that a bird corner still exists. I am visiting Singapore again [Dec 2018} and would like to visit this location.Could you please advise which days and the times birds are on display?
Hey sid, sorry for the late reply. The bird corner has been forgotten and has not been visited by anyone in more than a decade. You could also call it abandoned. Hope this helps!
Just need someone to organise a competition here to bring back it’s former glory
Do you know how i can tepair a really broken antique bird cage? Sentimental value.