Jeffrey Low

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Floyd towards the end of the molt.

A young friend had expressed interest in breeding him and has already been eyeing a couple of hot babes for him.

Goodbye Floyd. Have a good time...there's a whole lotta love awaiting you, over the hills and far away... 

Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love

Monday, September 28, 2009



No neck? No problem man...I've just got to remember
to stretch a little harder.

Funkie's tail is now about 9 inches. There should be another inch or so of growth left. The rate of growth of the pair of longer black tail feathers during the last fortnight was a little slower than usual. I would think that this was partly due to his being too vigorous during this period.

Funkie's transformation from a scruffy looking taimong into a handsome adult white-rumped shama will soon be completed.

Funkie's tail feathers are narrower than my other shamas. My personal preference is for tail feathers of longer tailed birds to be narrower. Long tailed shamas with narrower tail feathers are more willing to 'play the tail' and to carry them higher. This is because during a display, the narrower tail feathers of a long tailed bird will meet with lesser air resistance than broader ones, hence lesser effort will be required.

Friday, September 25, 2009



No I'm not fat!
I've just got a muscular chest....
and if you care to look under the feathers...
you'll also see my six-pack abs!

Nim, my favorite shama is now halfway through his 2nd molt. I would expect his tail length to be close to 11 inches upon completion of the molt. His longest tail feathers were measured to be 10.5 inches when they dropped. Nim has broad tail feathers and I would prefer that they are narrower. Long tail feathers that are also broad will require very much more effort to flick them during a display.

The indications so far are good and he is already starting to display and sing fiercely at times. The spasmodic convulsions that had taken a toll on his form before the molt, apparently did not affect him anymore.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Here is a badly taken pic of Floyd today.

Floyd is also part-way through the molt. He too is starting to be quite vigorous at times and I had taken extra precaution in his case. This is because around this period of his molt last year, he damaged his tail feathers due to vigorous playing. Somehow for him, the tail feathers are quite easily damaged, so as a precaution, he will be kept in a room away from the other birds from now on. So far, all is well and the tail feathers are growing at the rate expected. Floyd has a prawn tail that is already obvious at this stage of its growth.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Funkie is now slightly over 5 months old. He is going through his first molt pretty well so far, except that he is a little too vigorous for this stage of the molt. The tail is now about 7 inches and there should be sufficient time left in the molt to grow another 3 or 4 inches if all goes well with the remaining part of the molt.

"so you wanna see some cage-play huh?"

At this length, the black tail feathers that are still growing, may be easily damaged or broken if the bird ‘plays the cage’ too vigorously. Funkie’s cage is mostly covered during this time but even then, I still often hear him singing and playing vigorously inside. He is especially agitated by my other shamas doing the ‘tak- taks’.

When the feather is growing, there is an artery and a vein running through it for the circulation of blood to support the growth. When there is still blood supply to the feather, it is called a blood feather. When the feather has completed its growth, the blood in the quill will recede and the blood vessels will shrivel up. A broken blood feather can bleed profusely. Pulling out a broken blood feather of the tail can stop the bleeding and a new feather will grow to replace it but sometimes, this may damage the follicle if it is not properly done. Repeatedly pulling out the same tail feather may result in follicle damage to the point when it can no longer grow a replacement. The bleeding can also be stopped by using those ‘stop-bleed’ products or kitchen cornstarch and a little pressure to help the blood to clot. The broken feather will then be replaced at the next molt.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Insects such as crickets, mealworms and roaches are very high in chitin. When captive shamas are given the choice, they tend to pick out softer bodied insects that have lesser chitin, such as white mealworms that had just shed the skin. Although there is insufficient evidence to support my suspicion that the varieties of invertebrates that the shama will consume in the wild are overall much lesser in chitin compared to the insects fed to them in captivity, I am nevertheless quite convinced from many years of observations that the captive shama cannot be at its best when fed with a diet high in chitin or dietary fiber. I often see shamas showing signs of unwell and sometimes quite fluffed up after consuming large amounts of crickets and mealworms. Also, when fed for some time with a diet consisting of large amounts of crickets and mealworms, their appetite may decrease, prompting me to suspect that the large amount of chitin from these insects may cause some degree of impaction of the crop in captive shamas. Apart from my observations, there are also other reasons that led me to believe that a diet consisting of large amounts of chitin and dietary fiber may be quite unsuitable for the captive shama.

1) We do not know for sure whether or not the shama is able to produce chitinase enzymes but the fact that they regurgitate most of the indigestible chitin seems to suggest that chitinase activity is minimal even if it is present in the shama.

2) Unlike the graminivorous birds (grass eating) and folivorous birds (leave eating), the anatomy and physiology of the digestive tracts of insectivores like the shama are more suited to nutrient-compact diets with easily digestible fat and protein, utilizing these nutrients through an autoenzymatic type of digestion (by the enzymes produced from certain organs of the bird). The herbivorous birds on the other hand, have a digestive system relying partly on alloenzymatic digestion (by enzymes of microbial origin or fermentation) through which they are able to utilize the high fiber in their diet. It therefore appears to me that chitin and dietary fiber serves no nutritional purpose in the diet of the captive shama. Until they are regurgitated, large amounts of chitin or indigestible fiber in the crop could cause some degree of impaction which may also affect the appetite, as was often observed by me. They also dilute the nutrients of the diet and could quite possibly interfere with the digestion as well.

Keeping the above in mind, I had for quite some time now, avoided feeding large amounts of insects that are high in chitin. When it comes to feeding insects as part of their daily diet, I now feed crickets only sparingly and I would only use white mealworms. In order to substitute for the animal protein that may be lacking in this diet with very little live food, I have included substantial amounts of lean beef, sardines and eggs in my home-made pellets. Through many years of trials and errors, I have found these three sources of animal protein to be very good for the shama. As far as I know, my home-made pellets are also low in dietary fiber. My shamas rarely regurgitate.

Even during the molt, my birds are fed with very little live food and judging from the feather condition of the tails upon completion of their molt, this diet seems to be sufficient in animal protein. I have often been asked by my bird keeping friends how I had managed to keep my caged shamas in good and tight-feathered conditions most of the time, even during the molt. I would think that this is due to their nutrient-compact diet which is low in chitin, low in indigestible fiber and high in animal protein.