File photo: A Magpie Robins

KUALA LUMPUR: Two Malaysian courts fined 27 men for abusing birds prized for their singing abilities by making them fight in a cage, an official said Tuesday.

The men paid fines of RM130 ringgit ($38) each after pleading guilty Monday in two Kuala Lumpur courts to charges of committing cruelty to animals, a Magistrate’s Court official said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to make public statements.

The men gathered at a recreational club where bird-watchers and other enthusiasts meet and placed two Oriental Magpie Robins in a cage to watch them fight. They were charged after other club members complained about the incident.

The Magpie Robins, which are small, black and white birds with long tails, are common in Southeast Asia, where they are well-known for their melodious singing. The males are aggressive and territorial during breeding season, but their fights generally end without serious injury.

The men’s lawyers told the court that they were remorseful and had promised not to repeat the offense. Most of them were retired and had few sources of entertainment, according to their lawyers.

They had faced a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine of 200 ringgit ($58). — AP