Finch Sitting — Yes, It’s Actually a Sport

Sports are usually associated with skill and effort, but in Vinkensport (literally “finch sitting), a traditional animal sport practiced in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, it’s all about sitting down and listening to birds singing. In Vinkensport, small cages are lined up in a row about six feet apart on the street. Inside each box is a single male finch whose job is to produce as many bird calls as possible in an hour. Sitting in front of the wooden cages are their owners, the vinkeniers (“finchers”) who tally the bird songs with chalk on a large wooden rod. Each chalk line represents one complete bird call, which ends in a characteristic flourish known as a susk-e-wiet. Judges walk along the row of cages to make sure no one cheats. Vinkensport is a very passive sport — some would even call it boring — but it's also a very controversial one. Animal activists have slammed vinkeniers for keeping finches in small dark cages for their own entertainment and “brainwashing” the birds into singing more than is natural or healthy by playing loops of other bird calls. Vinkensport champions can reportedly produce over 1,000 bird calls in one hour, which definitely doesn’t sound natural. Another controversial aspect of Vinkensport is cheating, primarily by using testosterone. One competitor was even found hiding a CD player in his bird’s box.