A Barcelona food blog
It was with bewilderment and curiosity that I started asking questions about the numerous teenage boys and young or retired men I kept seeing around carrying small, covered bird cages. Why where they everywhere in the commuter town outside Barcelona where I work? Why did I sometimes, although less frequently, see them in Barcelona too? Why would these men be sat chatting with their friends and the cages would have pride of place on the cafe table or roof of the car, a small flap of the cage cover open? And in true paparazzi style, I started to take pictures, secretly zooming in from a distance, fascinated by what I was seeing.
The reason became apparent after asking questions of colleagues and acquaintances. These are singing birds and owning and tending to them is a common hobby and seen as a lucrative money making scheme here.
Here’s the deal. You can buy the tiny, baby birds for around 10€, you, to quote one of my sources “care for them, feed them, give them air outside, make them grow big and strong” and then either sell them on for a profit or enter them into singing competitions where I’ve been informed a top prize can be as much as 6000€.
I know of someone who has devoted the majority of her spring and summer to feeding 16 petit baby birds on a 2 hourly basis, which has restricted her social life or opportunities for venturing far from home, to be able to sell these on to someone in Andalusia for 10 times the original outlay. Not a bad return, but quite a commitment.
I’ve done a bit of digging from online newspaper articles and it appears that this is not restricted to Catalonia but happens all across Spain, that the birds learn to sing by imitation and can be played music or bird song for hours and that indeed the prizes can be substantial. However, like any financial gain based on a competition, the chances of winning one of these high prizes are probably pretty low.
What I love and find the most amusing about this are the covers of the cages; I’ve seen a workman with his on the dashboard of the car, resplendent in it’s Barça insignia, another young man on the train to Barcelona, his bearing their rivals of Madrid, the cow print style shown below and numerous chintzy checkered and floral varieties.
A lot of effort goes into “making them big and strong”, these must be tough little blighters with claws of steel judging by the way I’ve seen two or more cages fastened together and swung alarmingly back and forth as their owner walks along the street. Is it clinging onto it’s perch for dear life, cowered in a corner waiting for it’s safe arrival back home, or is there, I wonder, not even a bird in there at all?