Pet birds: Love at first sight [Archives:2006/912/Last Page]

January 16 2006

Mohammed Al-Jabri
The first lovebirds came to Yemen fifteen years ago. Since then, the interest for pet birds has increased remarkably.

By the beginning of the 1990s, the trade of pet birds started to flourish in Yemeni markets, especially in Sana'a city. Since then, lovebirds have gained popularity, and most young people still prefer to own them instead of other kinds of birds, because lovebirds are linked with love affairs. Before that, people used to own local birds such as nightingales, falcons, doves, and goldfinch.

Mr.Bilal Al-Sabri, owner of a bird store in Sana'a, says that Yemenis who have traveled abroad were influenced by pet bird stores business. Some local tradesmen began to adopt the idea of importing some of those birds to Yemen.

A lovebird is very affectionate, lovely and cute. It is the smallest kind of parrots. It is about 13-17 cm in size and 40- 60 grams in weight. Lovebirds are kept in pairs, because they form a very close bond with one another. They can be trained easily to perch on fingers, heads or shoulders. People like to buy them only for their attractive form. Some others buy them as a present, and at times, a young man gives them as a gift to his fiancee, because these birds are the symbol of love. Mr. Bilal explains that children like these birds the most. The child who sees them for the first time insists on his father to buy them. A pair of lovebirds may cost 22,000 Yemeni rials.

Pet birds differ from one to another. Some are small and some are medium in size. In Yemen, there are many kinds of these birds. The most famous are the nightingale, blackbird, goldfinch, pigeon, falcon, paradise bird, canary, parrot, and cockatiel. Some of these are imported from Australia and Holland, but the nightingale, blackbird, falcon, goldfinch and pigeon can be found in different regions of Yemen.

Before the coming of pet birds from foreign countries, the most well known birds in Yemen were pigeons, falcons and, to some extent, nightingales. Young people paid special attention to pigeons more than other kinds. They found in them a profitable trade as they used to sell them. Others liked to gain them for hobbies. At times, owning pigeons was considered a kind of pride, especially when they had very rare kinds of pigeons.

It has been a hobby for most people in Yemen to own as many pigeons as they can. Some prefer to build special places for them over the roofs of their houses. Here they build rooms at about 30 cm height and two meters long, with at least seven holes on each room to allow as much light pass through. Some others find it sufficient to shelter their pigeons in ghee or oil tins. Very few people do use cages for keeping their pigeons.

Training pigeons is very easy and does not take much time. To train pigeons, you only need to train them on how to identify their place, so that when they are allowed to fly, they can recognize it easily upon their return. Mr. Ahmed Taher, owner of pigeons, says, ” I have many pigeons. I let them fly every morning, and they come back easily and never get lost.”

White pigeons are most endeared to people, because they originally form the Peninsula. In fact, people prefer to buy pigeons in pairs. A pair of pigeons may cost 4000 Yemeni rials.

In fact, pigeons are sometimes exposed to danger while flying from place to place. Some boys take pleasure in killing these birds. They make special bows to kill them. Most of them do so just to eat these birds, while others do so for amusement.

Cockatiels are attractive and can be trained to mimic whistles and short phrase. A cockatiel bird is famous for its fine-looking colors and the crown over its head. It has a long tail. The pair may cost 15,000 Yemeni rials. However, the canary is the more expensive than cockatiels, because it has melodious sounds. The canary was named after the Canary Islands. A pair of canary birds costs up to 22,000 Yemeni rials.

The falcon is another famous bird in Yemen. Some tradesmen import this bird from Yemen to Gulf countries. Owning a falcon has been a hobby for some people, and some others show a great pride in having it. Very rarely do people use it for hunting.

It is observed that most photographers in Sana'a city like to have falcons with them, for most people like to take photographs with a falcon on their heads, shoulders or hands. There are different kinds of falcons, the most famous known as the Free (Al-Hurr), which is very white with black eyes and long nick. This falcon costs up to 150,000 Yemeni rials.