Jeffrey Low

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


My Indonesian friend William recently bought 2 captive bred taimongs:

This taimong (yet to be named) has a longer tail. At 1.5 months old, his tail measured 4.5 inches. His father has a 11+ inches tail and his mother has a 7+ inches tail. William hopes to be able to breed from him someday, for his long tail genes.

This is LT, the father of the taimong above. He is in my opinion, a very handsome male.

This taimong was named Isamu (Japanese for courage and bravery). At 2.5 months old, his tail measured 3.1 inches. William was told by the breeder that he was bred from a Sumatran champion male. William had witnessed the Sumatran champion performing at competitions and described his songs to be very "tajam" (high pitched). William described Isamu to be very loud voiced and alert to his surroundings.

Isamu fell sick not long after arriving at William's place. He deteriorated quickly and had became weak and was not eating much. At this stage, I had thought that he was not able to pull through.

Sometimes we can feel very helpless when our birds fall sick because usually, for most of us, there is no avian vet around that has experience in species like the shama. Despite what seemed to be a hopeless situation, William did not give up hope and spared no effort in giving the debilitating bird all the supportive care that was needed. Miraculously, Isamu is now recovering and going into his first molt. I received an email from William and among other things, this was what he said: " it opens up my eyes that bird keeping is not just about beauty and sound. It is also about caring and nurturing."

I think my young friend William will one day be a great shama keeper. He is now planning to acquire another taimong from a famous breeder in West Java.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


It may be logical for us to think that since the habitats of wild shamas are densely forested, captive shamas by nature are not accustomed to bright sunlight. After thinking deeply about this, I am now not too convinced if this is really true. Even densely forested habitats will surely have pockets within them that will allow direct sunlight to pass through to the forest ground. I have been into shama habitats during my younger days and had seen areas like this. This is also confirmed by DDS who had also been into shama habitats in the past. Will birds like the shama that lives in densely forested habitats seek out these areas to bask? We couldn't really know for sure but judging from how captive shamas will indulge in sun-bathing whenever there is opportunities to do so, there is a likelihood that they could have. We really know very little of what is happening in the wild. If a nocturnal bird will sun-bath in the middle of the day, there is really no reason to believe that the wild shama will not seek out the opportunities to do so. (

Humans as well as animals can develop cataracts when their eyes are over-exposed to strong UV rays of the sun. When some shamas are more prone to develop cataracts, old age and genetic predispositions must also be taken into account when considering the underlying factors that may have contributed to this condition.

Most birds will indulge in sun-bathing and the captive shama is no exception. When placed under direct sunlight, strong enough to induce the shama to sun-bath, it will spread out its wings and fluff up its body feathers to allow the sun to penetrate into the skin. The shama, like other captive birds will even sun-bath under very strong mid-day sun to the extent of overheating itself, as can be seen from their panting when this happens. If sunlight will cause cataracts in the captive shamas because they are more sensitive to the sun than other species in captivity such as the red whiskered bulbuls and the zebra doves, hobbyists in Indonesia, where the shama has a long history in captivity, would not have continued to advocate this practice today. If the sun is no good for captive shamas and they are by nature not accustomed to it, why do they indulge in sun-bathing like the other species instead of having a natural aversion and avoiding hot sun?

What benefits are there to make birds in the wild as well as birds in captivity indulge in sun-bathing? There are various theories offered by scientists. One of them is that sun-bathing will reduce the metabolic energy needed to maintain the constant body temperature of around 40 degrees C. Another is that it aids to rid the body of parasites and a third one is that it allows the UV ray to stimulate the precursors of vitamin D that is found in the preen oil of birds.

I practiced sun-bathing my shamas in the past, usually in the mid mornings, whenever I can. I have kept birds since I was very young and in my 40 over years of bird keeping, I can remember having had only one shama that had developed cataracts among the many I have kept. I also had another bird of a different species developed cataracts as well, not too long ago. In recent years, since taking an interest in long tailed shamas, I have not been sunning them as much. Because I took great trouble to ensure that the long tails grew well during the molt and are maintained well after that, I do not want to have them curling upwards, which is what tends to happen when they are sun-bathed. There were occassions when I had suspected that some of my birds may had feather mites and I will sun-bath them. I will normally do this before giving them a bath and not after a bath. This is because I feel that a cool bath after sun-bathing helps to some extent in restoring the curled up tail feathers back to their original form
. I would not bring a bird from a dimly lit area indoors to be immediately placed in the open under very bright sunlight as I think this would at the least, cause great discomfort to the eyes. 

Nazareth - Sunshine


This is the picture of Nim taken this morning. I had decided to temporarily remove him from the breeding cage. Meanwhile, Lorraine is still sitting on the unfertile eggs but in a few days time, she will abandon them. This time round, I will try to make sure that the timing is right before releasing Nim back into the breeding cage.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I candled the eggs when Lorraine came out of the nest-box early this morning for her first feeding. The last time I counted the eggs was on the day she started sitting and there were 4 of them. As expected, she had laid another the next day but the candling shows that all 5 eggs were infertile. This was also quite expected because although Lorraine was ready to be bred at the time the pair was introduced, Nim wasn't and no mating took place before the eggs were laid.

I will remove the nest-box and the eggs when the time is up, in a few days time and will observe the pair to decide when to put it back. I would expect that the next clutch will be fertile. Hope this expectation will come true just like the others so far.

Although they were not fertilised, having 5 eggs in this clutch, all of normal size, had indicated to me that Lorraine's diet prior to laying was ok and she was in pretty good physical condition.

Lorrain is a very good hen in many ways. She has a stable temperament. With a little effort, she was quite easily conditioned to allow me to remove the nest-box periodically for inspection of the eggs. I think not all shama hens will tolerate this and some may even abandon the nest when disturbed this way.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It's been a week since Lorraine started sitting the eggs. She has been doing a very good job, only coming out of the nest box for short periods during the day to feed and bath. Before she started sitting, she will feed during the night, up to the time the lights are turned off at about 9 pm. I had already installed a dim night light to ensure that there is sufficient light for her to find her way back to the nest-box, in case she is still out when the main lights are turned off but that seems to be quite unnecessary. Ever since she started sitting, she has never leave the nest-box after 6 pm even though the lights are on at night, as usual. Perhaps the incubating hen senses the drop in temperature as night approaches and instinctively will not leave the eggs even for short periods.

I have not candled the eggs to check if they are fertile. I was advised by DDS that even if they are not, it is best to let the hen incubate the full period instead of discarding them which will stress the pair and may cause the hen to shortly lay another clutch that is likely to be unfertilised.

Uriah Heep - Sweet Lorraine

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Lorraine laid the 4th egg earlier today. When I came home, she was in the nest box and it appeared that she has started sitting the eggs. If that is so, it would mean that this clutch will consist of 4 or 5 eggs.

If any of the eggs are fertile, they will hatch in about 11 days time. The only way of finding out if they are fertile is to candle them. I was told by DDS that the best time to do this is after 4 days from the time the female starts sitting the eggs.

Will update again when I can confirm whether they will become chicks or omelette.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Lorraine laid her 3rd egg.

Up to yesterday, the pair was fed only live food consisting of crickets, mealworms, pineapple beetles and froglets. The insects are gut loaded with dog food, chicken feed, Nestum cereals, carrot and a little powdered calcium. The egg shells of the 3 eggs were well formed, suggesting that there were sufficient store of calcium in the female bird so far. I am afraid that she may be quite depleted by now and I will also be supplementing with a liquid calcium from now on. Additionally, small guppies will also be included in the daily diet.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


At around 10am, Lorraine came out of the nest box. Here's the pic of the egg.


I haven't been paying very much attention to the pair for the last few days. I woke up early this morning, replenished the feeder boxes and sat in front of the breeding cage watching the pair in anticipation (as if I knew something will happen). At about 8.15am, Lorraine entered the nest box. I had seen her entering the nest box occasionally, since the nest was built but had not seen her stayed for very long inside.

It's been more than half an hour and she is still inside as I write. She is laying the first egg.