Jeffrey Low

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Parental egg destruction - Part 3: The initial failure of the final attempt on Lady CN

5th March 2014:
Funkie was released into the breeding aviary after confirming through visual obsevations that Lady CN is ready to receive him.

10th March 2014:
Start of nest building by Lady CN. It was completed within a few days.

Everything else was so far, so good. The pair was observed to have copulated many times since introduction.

16th March 2014:
Visual observations early in the morning had indicated that Lady CN was close to laying.

At about 8.30am, she entered the nest box and remained inside for a good half an hour. She then emerged from the nest box carrying the egg between the beaks and did what I had dreaded most. It was a good sized egg, only to add to the frustration.

All through the rest of the morning, many thoughts went through my mind. Finally, I removed the nest box and set it right in front of me, staring inside at the nest and once again, wondering what could have gone wrong. She had done a good job with the nest. It was very well put together but what good is a well-built nest if it is not to hold the well-bred chicks?

Yap came by later on that morning and I told him what I had in mind. It was a crazy idea but not totally without reasons. Thirty minutes later, we were at a street named Jalan Bunga Raya to buy what was needed. be continued

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Parental egg destruction - Part 2: The game plan for Lady CN

For Lady CN, the metabolic cost of the pre-breeding molt, the energy expansion during the frantic building of the nest and the depletion of nutrients from the body for egg accretion were all put to waste, so far. There are a myriad of possible causes for her pre-matured terminations of the reproductive process. They may be due to some complex physiological or psychological issues. As an average hobbyist, it will be beyond my resources to ascertain the exact cause or the combination of factors that could have led to this self-defeating disorder. However, there are also some areas which are within my means, that may be well worth examining before proceeding with this final attempt.

There is always the possibility of a nutritional deficit but judging from the result of the pre-breeding molt as well as from the visual assessment of her general health, this had seemed to be unlikely. There is however, a likelihood that we may be dealing with an exceptionally sensitive specimen here. She may be one of those birds that will require very careful and thorough preparations prior to breeding. Complacency, induced by the ease of breeding other females, may have resulted in the lack of attention paid to the minute details during the preparations for her, hence the failed attempts so far. With this in mind, the following extra steps were taken prior to pairing her up for this final attempt.

1) Lady CN was well rested and acclimatized to the surroundings of her breeding ground:
She had undergone 2 complete and good molts since the last attempt was made to breed her, the latest of which was in her present location. This should ensure that she is sufficiently rested and well acclimatized to the environmental influences of the breeding ground.

2) The introduction of the pair was done very carefully:
Lady CN was the first to be placed into the breeding aviary while Funkie was being transferred from his molting aviary to a bamboo cage. For the next few days, the bamboo cage was hung next to the breeding aviary to allow for close visual contact. This arrangement is to ensure that Lady CN will not be forced into breeding too abruptly. Physical introduction was made only after careful observations to confirm that she is ready to be bred. I have reasons to suspect that in the captive environment, very often, copulation is still possible even though the female is not fully ready. The act of copulation by itself, will stimulate egg formation and laying. In such instances, the maternal hormones may yet to be in full swing and it is anyone's guess if this could be a cause for some of the maternal destructive behaviors in captivity. It is also anyone's guess if such destructive behaviors are able to develop into a habit.

3) Thoughts were given to provide for an environment most conducive to the breeding of an understory species:
Their breeding aviary was placed in the side porch of the house, where it is also well sheltered from the strong winds. A length of black agricultural netting was draped around the porch to reduce the penetration of sunlight into this area. Even this had somehow, seemed to be insufficient. So another layer of the black netting was also used to wrap around the sides of the breeding aviary. The inside of the nest box, around the area where the nest will be build, was painted black to emulate the much darkened environment inside of their natural nesting cavities. be continued

Friday, March 21, 2014

Parental egg destruction - Part 1: My thoughts on Lady Chiak Nung

My earlier attempts a couple of years ago to breed from Lady Chiak Nung had failed miserably due to her post-laying destructive behavior. In spite of these past failures, I have not given up on my hope to breed for certain desirable traits from her, hence a final attempt to breed her was included in our breeding plan for this year. She is to be paired up with our foundation stud bird, Funkie. This decision to risk Funkie's precious breeding time for the season, on a female with such disappointing breeding records, was further justified by my quest for a better understanding of her counter-productive breeding behaviour as well as my wish to see if this behavioral abnormality can be reversed. The cut-off point for Funkie's loss of breeding time for the season was set to be for no more than 2 failed clutches from this pairing, after which, he will have to be paired up with another proven female and the attempt will be considered to have failed.

From experience, egg destruction and infanticide by both sexes of this species is not uncommon. Some of us may be of the opinion that these destructive behaviours are due to hormonal fluctuations, triggered by external factors such as a perceived threat in the immediate vicinity, causing the parental hormones to be imbalanced. In most cases of parental egg destruction or infanticide, the above reasoning is logical, especially if environmental triggers are observed to be present. However, this may not be the case with Lady CN. In every instance that she had entered the nestbox to lay and after the usual time required to lay the egg, she would without fail, exit the nest with the freshly laid egg between the beaks, only for it to be immediately destroyed on the cage floor. She will also always consume part of the contents and almost all of the shell and all these without even the slightest of provocation. This is not the same as having laid a few eggs over the course of a few days and then succumbing to the sudden emergence of an environmental threat or challenge.

In the case with Lady CN, they were all immediate post-laying destructions and in every of her case, there was no obvious triggers observed to be present at the moment of destruction. There was also no visible or audible signs of excitement from both birds, before and after each exhibition of the behaviour, further indicating that there was an absence of an external trigger. Furthermore, there was hardly any time-lag between completion of laying and commencement of destruction to allow for a trigger to take place.

The eggs were not simply thrown out of the nest as commonly observed but instead, each was deliberately brought down to the cage floor to be consumed. However, there is also no reason to believe that the egg-consuming part of the behaviour is of a resource saving nature to recover part of the invested nutrients, since there was never any hint of imminent danger to incite abandonment of the nest. be continued

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Lady is at it again!

The incorrigible Lady CN destroyed her first egg of the season this morning, immediately after laying it.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Kicking off for 2014

Our plan for this year is to breed from 4 or 5 pairs. Over the last few months, Yap and I had put in some efforts to get the selected birds ready. Guided by the vision towards producing good captive breds worthy of approval by fellow hobbyists, lots of thoughts had went into the matching up of the pairs.

Funkie had just finished his annual molt and is already well into breeding form. He is matched up with Lady Chiak Nung despite her notorious egg-eating habit. We would be very happy if this pairing could produce a couple of offsprings successfully. Lady CN has very desirable tail feather characteristics. Her tail feathers are of the right texture, not too soft as to render them to be easily worn out before the annual molt, yet well curved. Her two longest tail feathers are always in place, molt after molt, overlapping throughout their entire lengths. This, I think is what is quite lacking in many long-tailed birds. Few super long-tailed birds can carry their long tails well all the time. Skyhawk (owned by DDS and closely related to Lady CN) has always been my model for tail feather perfection and this is one of the desired traits that we had wished to be able to breed into our birds. Of course, there is a high chance that we may not be able to get anything out of this pairing if she continues with her egg-eating habit and since we do not plan on robbing her eggs to artificially incubate. Although we have other proven females at our disposal, still, we would think that the risk is well worth taking.

Our other pairings so far this year are mostly pairings of first molts, including Funkie's son Rock. Rock is paired with another first molt female (supplied by DDS) that we had named Ross. Rock is now about 7 months old and could be too young but sooner or later, we will be able to obtain some linebred offsprings from this pairing. Rock has turned out to be as good as we could wish for and is quite identical to Funkie in many ways, including the character, display style and songs.

I had also obtained an outcrossed male from DDS and named him Mr PK. He is super strong in character and also possesses great tail feather texture. He is now being bred back to the proven line and paired up with Baby Jane, daughter of Flame and one of the finest linebred females I have seen so far from DDS. Mr Pk is a first molt and Baby Jane has just completed her second.

Here is a video of the pairing of Funkie to Lady CN.