Another Strange Bird Story – Vinkenzetting


This is a story that I find almost unbelievable but I swear that it is true and if there was a list of pointless things that mankind has thought up to amuse itself then this would be close to the top of the list.

The chaffinch is a popular pet bird in many countries because of its beautiful song.  In the Flanders region of Belgium, the four hundred year old sport of vinkenzetting (finch-sitting) is a competition that pits male chaffinches against one another in a contest for the most bird calls in an hour.  The sport was first recorded in 1596 and currently it is estimated that there are over thirteen thousand vinkeniers breeding ten thousand birds every year.

This is a sport even more pointless than fishing and this is how the contest works – a row of cages, each housing a single male finch, are lined up approximately two metres apart along a street, the close proximity is important because it increases the number of calls, as the birds sing to attract a mate and to establish its territory, and every time the bird sings this is recorded as a score by making a chalk mark on a pole.  A timekeeper begins and ends the contest with a red flag and the bird singing its song the most times in one hour wins the contest.


According to the organisers of the sport finches from the different regions of Belgium sing in different dialects. Flemish finchers insist that only Flemish chaffinches chirp the susk-e-wiet and that Wallonian finches, found a few miles away, sing in a dialect closer to French. If a bird fails to sing in the Flemish style then its tweets may not be counted.  Any bird singing in French is immediately disqualified with no right of appeal.  I imagine the French are not happy about that knowing how precious they are about their language.

In my opinion this must surely be a something that should be stopped immediately because why would anyone want to put a wild bird as beautiful as this into a wooden box simply for their own amusement?

As with other sports, vinkenzetting has had its cheating scandals and in one competition a champion finch sang 1,278 correct songs (that’s one every three seconds or so) but the owner was later accused of doping the bird with testosterone.  At another contest after one finch sang the exact same number of calls in two rounds the box was opened and a mini CD player was discovered inside.  I hope the owners were appropriately punished.

This man looks like the Diego Maradonna of vinkenzetting…

Vikenzetting 1


43 responses to “Another Strange Bird Story – Vinkenzetting

  1. Vinkenzetting sounds unpleasant for the finches…and totally boring for the people involved. I’m particularly concerned that they all have big sticks. What’s the purpose of the venkenzetting canes?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How utterly bizarre and (I agree) pointless!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s amazing, I’d never heard of it before! I was curious about the big sticks too – it turns out that’s the long stick where they make the chalk marks as they count up their tally. Phew!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just realised that you did actually mention that in your post! But a second comment gives me a chance to say how much I loved the detail about A/ the mini CD player in the box (genius) and B/ the fact that birds singing in French are disqualified. Brilliant! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OK, that’s almost as bad as watching the Olympics. No, it’s worst because the athletes are mostly there voluntarily . . . although also doped.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fabulous story. In future instead of saying something is as interesting as watching grass grow or paint dry I will say as interesting as vinkenzetting! I would imagine the birds are managed by Louis Van Gaal!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post but haven’t liked as I agree with you they should be set free, really hate the way wild birds are captured just to sing songs for us humans.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Would that be the Diego Maradonna who keeps poking the bird with his stick to make it sing – a little help from the wand of God?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. 😳😧😟🙄


  10. This post earned a Bean Pat as blog pick of the day. Check it out at:

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As the birds are not wild, but captive bred, I wouldn’t think that any of the laws about the protection of wild birds are applicable. It was in Victorian times that. English p ornithologists discovered that birds had regional accents, but I didn’t realise that it was so well known in Europe as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh, no… a doping scandal among the chaffinch! What horror story will emerge next? 🙂 Thanks for sharing this trivia, Andrew. I will remember it. I’m whistling a song right now to establish it in my memory banks. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Finch doping. Now I’ve heard everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I don’t like any “sports” which involve cruelty to animals and this is another to add to the list.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “thirteen thousand vinkeniers breeding ten thousand birds every year.

    Do 3000 of these vinkeniers miss out on getting a baby finch?

    I think I’d enjoy this much more than watching grass grow, paint dry or the Americas Cup & cricket, the game not the things that buzz eternally in my head

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m finding it hard to see where actual cruelty is involved, seems like these people love their pet birds


  17. There are some strange folk in the world – the poor chaffinches being made to sit in that box for so long it is cruel as far as I’m concerned 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I reckon they should be let loose. But don’t release them in Australia – we have too many European birds and animals stuffing up the Australian ecology. Although you could put them in a big box and send them to LordBofB


  19. I actually was not aware of this custom of my own land! Probably something done in the country areas. How sad to abuse beautiful birds like that. Thanks for an excellent blog entry.


  20. This is indeed an embarrassment to be living in a country with such a “sport”. There is opposition here to it, but it still goes on. At least the capture of wild finches is illegal and hopefully no longer practiced. But nevertheless, the idea of caging any bird and getting them to perform is anathema. Good post Andrew.


  21. Megan Freemantle

    Where does one get a vinkensport Bird box? I need six for an Opera being done on the subject. No real birds will be used in the production. Or even building plans if there are some. They all seem very similar in shape and size. What are basic dimensions? Help appreciated.


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