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Humans of Hong Kong: Establishing a pecking order with Uncle Yu

By Catharina Cheung 3 June 2020

Welcome to Humans of Hong Kong, a brand-new story series on Localiiz that takes a deeper look at the many colourful characters and unique personalities that call our beloved city home. In this episode, we caught the early worm with Uncle Yu, a proud bird owner who was buying supplies at the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden in Mong Kok, carrying his pet Chinese hwamei in tow.

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“I started keeping birds as pets from a young age. Back then, everyone was doing it: sitting in the parks with their birds. I developed an interest simply because of constant exposure. I liked hwamei birds from the very beginning, and I’ve only ever kept this breed. The name refers to the line around his eyes that looks like eyebrows. They have the best singing voice out of all birds. No other breed compares. Don’t let his appearance now fool you; when he sings, he really gets going!”

“You could say that keeping hwamei birds is a bit of a waste or a lot of painstaking effort, because [with] this breed, you’re expecting to have them fight. If you don’t fight your hwamei, you might as well not keep one. They have historically always been a battling bird; it’s in their natures to fight. If he gets hurt, then he’s a stupid bird for getting beaten up! It’s the same for when people fight as well. Keep fighting, and they’ll learn better.”

“I’ve just bought a bag of grasshoppers for him. They won’t keep for long; they’ll start dying off in the bag. They’ll eat the grass that comes with its bag, but it’s kind of just self-deception. I’ll put mine in the fridge as soon as I get home. Anyway, with my three birds, they go through the bugs so quickly that it doesn’t matter! I’ll cut them up for him—a leg or a wing—and feed it to him gradually. Approximately 600 grams will only last a week. He eats over ten grasshoppers in a day. This doesn’t even include his base diet of bird feed. So bird-keeping can be a cheap hobby, but it could also be an expensive one.”

“I’m not here every day; just when I need to buy stuff. I usually come here on Tuesdays because that’s when the store gets a fresh supply of grasshoppers. On normal days when I’m just out with my bird, I’ll go to Ngau Chi Wan. Everyone else who has birds goes there!”

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Catharina Cheung

Senior editor

Catharina has recently returned to her hometown of Hong Kong after spending her formative years in Singapore and the UK. She enjoys scouring the city for under-the-radar things to do, see, and eat, and is committed to finding the perfect foundation that will withstand Hong Kong’s heat. She is also an aspiring polyglot, a firm advocate for feminist and LGBTQIA+ issues, and a huge lover of animals. You can find her belting out show-tunes in karaoke, or in bookstores adding new tomes to her ever-growing collection.