Birds have the instinct to fly far and wide—and seldom will you encounter a bird that naturally returns eagerly to its owner after a flight. However, as birds have become popular pets in Singapore, so have the demand for bird trainers. Traditionally, birds have been trained to perform tricks and talk.
Instead, trainers like Nurhisham Abdul Wahab, 38, teaches birds to fly free — but return to their owners. This is called free flight. Training a bird for free flight requires a level of determination and patience. It can take anywhere from two weeks to two years, depending on how old the bird is and whether it has already picked up undesirable habits like landing on trees or chasing distractions.
Nurshisham charges $350 for four sessions, which is usually enough to train most birds. He does this by getting the birds to recognise their owners’ voices and commands, and also guides the bird to fly back to their owners. This avid bird whisperer uses a string that can extend up to 400m, with an elasticised component attached to the bird’s feet to prevent injuries.
However, no matter how much training a bird receives, there is always a risk for it to go missing. While this risk is minimal with well-trained birds, you will still see many shout outs on Facebook groups for bird owners about missing birds. A good way to mitigate this is to use a GPS tracker which can help narrow down the location of a bird that has fluttered beyond its owner’s awareness.
Lost birds are at risk of being hunted by predator; such as eagles and crows, which are not exactly uncommon sights in Singapore. Birds are also easily distracted in our urban environment from sources like crowds and traffic noises.
Birdies, Buddies, Kakis
Another fellow bird enthusiast, Arman Mastan, 44, began bird training five years ago. He favours training birds at open fields, so it is easy to spot them. Larger breeds like macaws are also preferred as well as smaller birds are more difficult to track. Arman is a founding member of Birdies, Buddies, Kakis, a bird enthusiasts’ group which gathers on weekends.
Even though bird training has taken flight so to speak, finding a professional or certified trainer can still be a difficult task. This is because bird training is a largely informal affair in Singapore. If you’re a passionate bird owner who wishes to train your bird in free flight, try looking around the various local bird groups on Facebook for current information about gatherings and bird trainers.