Wednesday, August 4, 2010
MY THOUGHTS ON THE WILD-CAUGHT WHITE-RUMPED SHAMA IN CAPTIVITY - PART IV
PREPARING AND CONDITIONING THE NEWLY WILD-CAUGHT SHAMA TO EAT DRY FOOD IN CAPTIVITY
Newly wild-caught shamas that were kept by their trappers or the shopkeepers for some time before being sold would have been taught by these people to eat dry food. For those that are freshly caught and arrived without knowing how to eat dry food, the following may be useful to the novice keeper.
Upon acquiring the freshly wild-caught shama, the novice keeper should first of all, try to provide nourishment quickly to build up its strength before attempting to teach the bird to eat its dry food. Ant eggs are relished by most wild-caught shamas and they are ideal to be used as the first food in captivity to nourish the newly wild-caught bird. Thawed ant eggs should be offered several times each day and drinking water must be available at all times.
Many newly wild-caughts will not be able to seek out the food and water from certain types of food cups that we may use. The food and water must be made visible to the bird by using transparent cups such as those made from plastic instead of porcelain cups. Even then, do not expect a wild bird that is freshly taken from the forest to know how to reach the food from the opening at the top of the cup. It is not unusual that the freshly wild-caught bird will try to get at the food by pecking at the sides of the transparent cups instead. By removing the top of the plastic cups to allow for a wider opening will make it much easier for the bird during this initial period. Alternatively, transparent feeder dishes can be used instead of cups. If there is still difficulty for the bird to access the food and water, place them in small shallow dishes and leave them on the cage floor for the first couple of days.
The bird must be observed to be eating the ant eggs, otherwise, it may be one of those rare occasions where a wild-caught shama will refuse ant eggs. Some captive bred shamas that are never fed ant eggs before as well as the occasional wild-caught from certain localities may not recognize ant eggs as a food source.
After a couple of days, when the bird is observed to be eating well, mix in a drop or two of liquid multi-vitamins and minerals into the ant eggs. A dose of this every couple of days at this stage will help to strengthen its resistance against diseases. Do not be tempted to supplement right from the beginning because if the bird had refused to eat the ant eggs right from the start due to the taste or smell of the supplement, thereafter, it may sometimes take a while to coax it into accepting ant eggs again. It will require a couple of days for the bird to form a strong and positive link to the ant eggs as its source of food. Its desire to feed on them must be strong enough for it to be able to ignore the strange taste and smell of the supplement. Building up a strong reliance on ant eggs will also work well towards using them as the medium to introduce dry food into the bird's diet later on.
When it is time to introduce the dry food into the bird's diet, the keeper may want to bear in mind to do this gradually. I would think that this is important not just only towards successfully training the bird to eat dry food but also to allow the bird to have sufficient time to adjust and produce the required digestive enzymes to cope with a food that is quite foreign to its digestive tract. It may sound trivial to some but over the years and through the trials and errors of raising numerous wild-caught white-rumped shamas, I have often suspected that the instances where I had succeeded well were correlated to the gradual and proper digestive acclimatization of these birds during their early days in captivity.
The dry food must be ground into fine powder and in the beginning, only a small pinch is thoroughly mixed into each serving of the ant eggs. In powdered form, the dry food will adhere better to the moist, thawed ant eggs. After each serving of the mixture, it is usual in the beginning for most of the powdered dry food to be left behind in the cup or to be strewn on the cage floor. Despite the bird’s insistent efforts to shake off the dry food, be assured that some of it will still inevitably be taken in together with the ant eggs. This will be evident in the droppings which by now, instead of being mostly white, would have taken on in some parts, a similar colour to that of the dry food. A few days is needed to feed the bird in this way, after which, the frequency of serving the mixtures of ant eggs and powdered dry food will have to be reduced.
The reduction of the serving frequency is to encourage the bird which will then be quite hungry between the feedings, to go for the dry food that is left over from the mixtures. There will be some taste and smell of ant eggs still lingering on these left-over crumbs and when the bird is hungry enough, it will attempt to feed on these. Once they started feeding on the left-over crumbs of dry food, it is the start of the conditioning of the bird to associate the dry food as a food source to satisfy its hunger. When they are observed to be eating up every thing from the ant eggs and dry food mixture, place a separate cup into the cage that contains only dry food. These need not be ground up but should be in their original pellet form.
The frequency of feeding the mixture of ant eggs and powdered dry food should then be further reduced to only once or twice a day to encourage the bird to feed from the cup of dry pellets, which should be by now recognizable as a food source by the bird. If all goes well, the droppings will show more colour of the dry food during this stage, confirming to the keeper that the bird is indeed eating the dry pellets. If the droppings show slight tinge of green, it is a sign that the bird is starving and not taking sufficient dry food from the cup. When this happens, the frequency of serving the mixture of ant eggs and powdered dry food would have to be increased again, for a while more.
Upon confirming that the bird is feeding very well from the cup of dry food, it should then not be given anything else in the morning. Ant eggs can be reserved for feeding only once in the evening. The ant eggs should also continue to be made good use of as a medium to supply supplements to the bird during this period of stress. Live food that is planned to be part of the captive diet should only be fed in very small quantities each time and from the afternoon onwards or withheld until later, after the bird is well conditioned to consume sufficient quantity of its dry food on a daily basis. This will help to ensure that its apettite for the dry food during this period of conditioning will not be distracted by the presence of other more appealing food sources and will also allow the digestive system to be better adjusted to the dry food which will henceforth, be a substantial part of the bird’s captive diet.
Partly because of the stress associated with conditioning the bird to eat its dry food and partly due to its not being well acclimatized to the captive environment, the newly wild-caught male shama will not be expected to come into form anytime soon. However, if all goes well, the newly wild-caught that is better acclimatized to the captive diet and well cared for during the molt will also usually thrive better and come into form faster in captivity.
Unless it is absolutely necessary, once the bird’s digestive system is acclimatized, the dry food should not be changed from one brand to another as this would mean having to put the bird through the stress all over again.
Yankovic - Eat it