When I first heard about it a few months ago, I couldn’t believe it. There are people who will take a pair of finches, put them in the same cage to fight, and place bets on who will win. We’ve all heard of dog-fighting, and cockfighting. The sports channels broadcast fights between humans in cages. But finches? Now I know they can be a little aggressive around the feeder, but who isn’t? I mean, it’s generally not a good idea to get between me and my morning coffee. And finches aren’t as bad as, say, house sparrows, who come to my feeders by the flockful and crowd out everyone else. And finches aren’t as ill-tempered as blue jays, who scold pretty much anybody, and even attack their own reflection in a window. But finches? Those delicate little things that flutter and twitter around my yard?

The first incident was in Connecticut. The latest one took place last week in Ashland, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, where authorities raided a house and found 20 saffron finches, along with 20 illegal immigrants from Brazil, where this activity (I’m not going to call it a sport) originated. I should add that finch-fighting is also illegal in Brazil, but that hasn’t stopped the activity.

Apparently the male saffron finches are particularly aggressive, especially when aroused by a female.

According to a news report, a female is kept in a separate compartment. The males get riled up, and then they are released into the same cage, where they’ll attack each other, pecking each other’s legs off.

Whoever survives wins?

Finch fights are high stakes gambling, with a good fighter going for $1,000 or more. The birds are bred for aggressiveness, and owners will sharpen their beaks. Authorities say it’s gaining in popularity.

How can this be? What does it say about us?