$3,000, Hair Curlers, and 35 Song Birds


Image courtesy of The New York Times

Joseph Sannito, Staff Writer

It was only this past week when Kevin Andre McKenzie of Guyana was charged with federal smuggling by the US Fish and Wildlife Services. In most situations involving smuggling, people are found with drugs or weapons, but in our situation here, Kevin was found with not one, not two, but thirty-five songbirds hidden under his clothes, each concealed in a tube made out of hair curlers. McKenzie states that he was given the hefty sum of 3,000 dollars to complete this task; meaning each bird had a value of roughly $86. $86, however, is only a small sum for a finch as males can often be sold at prices up to $10,000. (Vigdor). 

Many of you at this point may be wondering why would someone pay thousands of dollars to import birds, however, these “song birds” are not just any bird, they are finches. And in 2021 finches are of high value in Brooklyn and Queens. Although finches are noble birds you are probably still wondering what makes these birds so valuable, running at about the same price as a TI-84 graphing calculator all the way up to a used automobile. The answer is competitive caged bird “chirp offs”. The finches are placed in their own cage and are pitted against each other in a heated vocal battle that tests both speed and stamina. These events are often staged in parks and can become very profitable for those with prized finches.  A single round can rack in as much as $5,000 for the owner of the bird. But the owners are not the only ones who can make money as the gatherings offer large prize gambling pools. Overall, even though songbird competitions are very frowned upon by the US Fish and Wildlife Services, it does seem to be very lucrative if you are willing to enter into the danger of the undercover songbird vocal fight ring (Vigdor).