Hua Mei Bird Garden
Sara Delano Roosevelt Park. Lower East Side
New York, NY
Contributed by Project for Public Spaces
Community garden that hosts daily, early-morning gatherings of Chinese men who bring beautiful songbirds in fancy bamboo cages.
The combination of garden, men, and birds creates a sense of place and destination in an area that seemed forgotten until only recently. The songbirds, known as Hua Mei birds, are fighting thrushes from the forests of southern China; they are said to have been favored by Chinese emperors. Fighting birds first and foremost, the thrushes are coaxed to sing by their owners when they are young. Encouraging the residents to bring their birds every day supports this tradition of Hua Mei ownership and pride. The overall community garden is the work of Italian, Dominican and Chinese immigrants who helped build, and now maintain, this unique meeting place. The bird garden is a semi-circular area with stone paths and plantings that include native and Asiatic shrubs, particularly those that attract wild birds. Posts made from 1/2-inch plumbing pipes, planted with climbing vines, were sunk into the ground to accommodate the bird cages. A paved area in the front of the garden is used for tai chi.