Street Talk: Chia Eng Seng

He brings about six birds to Marina Mandarin Hotel everyday, hanging them up in the hotel’s corridor so that guests can hear them sing, before bringing them home in the evening. We sound him out on his passion for birds.
When did you start loving birds?
My interest in birds started from young, when I was just an adolescent. I would use a catapult to shoot the birds which are flying. I would take birds home when they fell and then rear them. We had to make up our own games to entertain ourselves in the past.
Do you hang out at the Jurong Bird Park?
I used to. The older staff in Jurong Bird Park know me. I organized bird singing competitions for them. Sometimes I didn’t need to pay the entrance fee when I went. But the place now has new staff who does not know me. I used to go there once or twice a month.
Do you think you’re depriving the birds of their freedom? Ever thought of giving them bigger cages?
The bigger its cage, the more the bird won’t sing. It sings to tell others that the cage is its space. When the cage is too big, it won’t feel the need to sing. Some male birds sing better when female birds are near too. It’s to get their attention.
Are you a cat-hater?
I don’t want to rear cats. My friend wants to give me a Persian cat. Its fur is white, with a tinge of blue. It’s very beautiful, but I don’t want it. Cats’ eyes glow at night, and I’m afraid that it might scare or eat my birds. I do have a dog though. It’s used to the birds. When one of my birds doesn’t want to bathe, I’ll get my dog to growl a little and chase it to the bathroom.
Is Sesame Street one of your favorite cartoons?
No lah. I rather watch Tom and Jerry. The big bird in Sesame Street is just a human wearing a costume.