Jeffrey Low

Wednesday, October 28, 2009



It's sparrow hawk season again. One of my friends just had a nasty encounter while hanging his bird at the park. They are coming in earlier than usual these days.
I'm always alert to the dangers at the park. Besides sparrow hawks and cats, there are also women preying on good looking bird keepers.

Uriah Heep - Bird of prey   

Monday, October 19, 2009


On several occasions recently, I have came across local advertisements selling the black bellied oriental magpie robins as seychelles magpie robins. I am quite sure that the sellers did not have intentions to mislead but had mistakenly thought that their birds were actually the seychelles magpie robins, the confusion arising from pictures on the internet.

The seychelles magpie robin (copsychus sechellarum) is an endangered species.
Below are some information regarding the seychelles magpie robin.

The seychelles magpie robins are one of the rarest birds on earth and they can only be found on five seychelles islands, namely Fregate, Cousin, Cousine, Aride and Denis. At one time around 1990, there were only 23 birds counted and these were found only on Fregate Island. Habitat destruction and predation from introduced domestic cats were cited amongst the reasons for their decline. They were then classified as "critcally endangered" under the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Animals. In 1990, a recovery programme was launched to save these birds from extinction, initially managed by Birdlife International and Royal Society for Protection of Birds from 1990 to 1997. The management of the programme was passed to Nature Seychelles from 1998 onwards. The recovery programme has been very successful and the seychelles magpie robin was downlisted in 2005, from "critically endangered" to "endangered" under the IUCN's Red List when its population had exceeded 50 adult individuals for more than 5 years. From an official population count in 2006, there were a total of 178 specimens found on the four islands - Fregate, Cousin, Cousine and Aride.

The population on Cousin Island was on a sharp decline since 2005, from 47 birds to just 27 due to competition from the exploding population of moorhens on the island. The seychelles magpie robin population was recently also extended to Denis Island through the translocation of 20 birds taken from Fregate and Cousin.

Although their conservation status has improved since the launch of the recovery programme, the seychelles magpie robin is still one of the rarest birds in the world.

The all-black magpie robin we keep as a songbird here is the black bellied oriental magpie robin (copsychus saularis) and not the seychelles magpie robin.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Most commercial dry food will come in pellet form. Home made dry food will require some effort and time to make them into homogeneous pellets. This is how I would combine food ingredients into homogeneous pellets.


combination of dry ingredients ground to a fine powder

low salt canned sardines rinsed and drained

minced raw lean beef after being wrapped in a towel to soak up excess moisture

raw egg yolks

The first three ingredients are thoroughly mixed together:

Next, the egg yolks are mixed in to form a dough:

This will then be put through a rotary grater, after which they will be cooked and dried at very low temperature in a turbo broiler for several hours.

The final result:

Several hours will be needed at very low temperature to sufficiently cook and dry them. When properly done, these can be kept for several months, just like commercial dry pellets.

It should be noted that the above is just an example of the process involved in making shama pellets at home. The ingredients above are just examples and may not necessary represent an ideal combination.There are reasons for my preference that home made dry food should be in homogeneous pellet form. Offering the birds a combination of various separate dried ingredients without making them into homogeneous pellets will result in the birds picking out only the preferred ingredients and leaving the rest behind. There will also be spillage all over the cage floor and the surrounding area caused by this or by grinding up the various ingredients into a powdery form. Powdery dry food may also cause irritations to the nostrils and eyes. Shamas when given the choice will mostly prefer a pellet form dry food over powdery ones.It is important to bear in mind that when introducing any new ingredients into the dry food, it has to be done gradually. The bird’s digestive system will need time to adjust in order to produce the required amount of the necessary enzymes to cater to the digestion of the new food. For the same reason, the proportion of the various ingredients used in making the dry food should always be consistent from batch to batch. The moisture content of the final product should also be as consistent as possible and inconsistencies should be minimised by using the same amount of cooking and drying time, at the same temperature setting, from batch to batch. It is always a good practice to keep some dry food from the previous batch to be mixed with some of those from a newly made batch when starting on a new batch of dry food. This will allow the birds to adjust more gradually to any slight inconsistency between them. It is not unusual that a change or any inconsistencies in the dry food will trigger a drop in the bird's form and in more severe cases, could even result in a stress molt. Often, they are due to eating insufficiently or the inability of the digestive system to adjust to an abrupt change. 

King Crimson - Cat Food

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009


To me, the most crucial factor affecting the success or failure in bringing out the best from the caged male white-rumped shama has always been the outcome of its annual molt.

A bad molt will almost certainly result in the bird not looking its best. A flawless physical appearance from a good molt on the other hand, is an indication at the least, that all is also well within.

There are other physiological changes that take place besides the renewal of feathers during an annual molt. The natural hormonal transition that takes place within the bird that is coming out of a good molt, will ensure that its form will peak. The rising testosterone level after a good annual molt is a natural occurrence in preparation for the breeding period that follows. A bird that goes through a good molt in the wild will be well prepared, with renewed feathers and vigor to face the challenges thereafter, which will come from competing for a mate and defending its territory. Thus, the annual molt is the underlying factor that determines how well the caged male shama will look and perform for the rest of the year until its next molt is due.

Grand Funk - Inside looking out