The Hua Mei Bird Sanctuary in Sara Roosevelt Park


The Hua Mei Bird Sanctuary
The Hua Mei Bird Sanctuary -photo by Lee Elson

From a post on 9/8/2009 by Brian Dubé

“…In 1995, three men, a Chinese banker and two former waiters, approached Anna Magenta, who, with Federico Sabini, had started the Forsyth Street Garden Conservancy in 1994 to improve the park. With her help, they petitioned the Parks Department, and in 1995, the Hua Mei Bird Garden was hatched. Bird gardens are common in China, and there are even restaurants that cater to patrons with their birds in tow.

Every morning, a group of Chinese men gather with their songbirds, finches, sparrows, and blue jays among them. But the raison d’être of this garden is the Hua Mei with its songs. On weekends, the population of men and birds reaches its zenith, with dozens of cages along the walkway and hanging from lines. Most of the birds’ owners are retired Chinese men.

The Hua Mei is a fighting song thrush – in the company of other males, it fights, and for females, it sings. The distinguishing physical feature is a white line that circles the eye and extends towards the back of the head. The birds are kept in ornate handmade bamboo cages, frequently with a white cloth covering the cage to shield them from the impact of the city. The birds are imported from China and Vietnam – they are quite costly, requiring quarantine before being brought into a domestic environment.

The gathering is a social one for both the owners and the birds. The Hua Mei needs exercise, and the owners take the opportunity to introduce the birds to each other while bird talk dominates the conversation…”

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