Jeffrey Low

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Good captive-bred shamas must come from stocks with great singing abilities

I only breed from birds with good overall structure, display and most important of all, great singing abilities. It is in my opinion that no amount of tutoring can make up for the lack of an inborn vocal ability.

Here is a video of my eight month old first molt. He is bred by DDS and he came to me when still a taimong. His height of tail flick and his great singing ability will compliment my existing breeding stock well.

This is Mr PK.

Even though Mr Pk is bred from long-tailed parents, his tail length is barely 9 inches. He is an outcross and a good example to show that tail lengths can be quite unpredictable when an established long-tailed line is being outcrossed.

It is my firm belief that the initial foundation stock for breeding good long-tailed shamas must be made up from specimens that also possess good overall structure, display and excellent vocal quality. Mr PK is to be bred back into the DDS line and hopefully, this could in some ways, further enhance the vocal quality of long-tailed birds bred from this line in the future.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Below is a picture taken today of 9 months old JL54. He is the son of Funkie and the grandson of Apache. He was paired up about a week ago and nest building by the female had already started since yesterday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Still nothing so far this year

Lady CN was broken of her egg-eating habit but the remaining 2 eggs from her first clutch had turned out to be infertile. The eggs were removed on the 14th day of incubation and confirmed to be infertile through candling. We have other proven females, all from the same DDS line and all very ready to be bred to Funkie but this is not just about producing chicks quickly. For me, it will be worth the time invested if we could get some offsprings from this pairing. Lady CN will be laying again this few days.

Meanwhile, Mr PK was separated from Baby Jane after waiting for about a month with no results from them. He was replaced with JL54. JL54, son of Funkie out of Fatina, was bred and sold last year and we were more than happy to acquire him back after his first molt. He is everything we could hope for in terms of song quality and structure. His tail is about 11.5 inches from this first molt but one of his tail feathers was ruined by tail feather mites. To ensure that the mites will be totally eradicated, I had treated him aggressively for a period of time before pairing him up. His tail feathers will be perfect by the next molt. We were more than willing to pay for him but his buyer had preferred to be replaced with another taimong later on, from this year's breeding. Although we have another 13-inch proven male at our disposal that we can pair up with Baby Jane, the final decision was to use JL54 even though he is unproven and may be a little too young. This is because the arrangement to use JL54 will fit very well into our breeding plan. This pairing and another 2 pairings this year using Funkie himself and his other son Rock, will hopefully result in some of Funkie's desirable traits being inherited by this year's offsprings from them. If all goes well, some of these offsprings could then be selected to provide a foundation that we could build upon to perpetuate these desirable traits, henceforth.

I am greatly inspired by the work and the words of two good friends from Singapore when it comes to captive breeding of the white-rumped shama:

David de Souza, whom I had first met about a decade ago, had shown me that the best strategy towards the goal of producing what one has in mind, is through selective line breeding. One of the traits that he had set out to breed for is the elegant and long tail feathers that will greatly enhance the overall structure of his birds. A decade and a half later, he is breeding true, this as well as other desirable qualities. His generosity to allow me to draw freely from his well of experience and his established genetic pool whenever I need to, has been my greatest source of encouragement.

Today, breeding just for long tail feathers may not be as difficult anymore because of the better availability of long-tailed birds in the market. However, appreciation of the hind structure is not just a matter of its measurement in inches. A long tail must also be able to please the eyes. Only then can it enhance the overall structure of the bird. In my opinion, a hobbyist that do not judge a bird by his eyes but only by the ruler, is not a true hobbyist at all. By itself, the tail must be of the right texture and curvature. A long tail that is stiff and unlively is not much more in character and appeal than a pair of chopsticks sticking out from the hind end. When viewed in combination with the overall structure, an impressive tail must be matched by an equally impressive body and the ability to carry it well. A long tail will not be impressive if it is attached to a badly structured body. A long tail that is on a bird that do not have what it takes to carry it, will likewise, serve to magnify the flaws.

Besides DDS, there are other breeders that I also admire for their success and their dedication. These are the ones breeding not just long-tailed shamas but beautiful long-tailed shamas. Another breeder-friend of mine, Ronald Thia, once advised would-be-breeders in the forum with these words: "He must also not be greedy to breed any pair he can match up but be very selective." I hold these words close to heart for they came from one that has finally tasted success through years of hands-on experience, patience and true dedication. In times like this, when things are not going too well, I draw strength from these words.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The nest is rocking and the eggs keep coming

Ross laid her second egg this morning. Both the eggs are undamaged so far. There are no signs of them being cracked or broken despite the flaw of the egg chamber. With only a few strands of coco fiber between the eggs and the hard surface of the nesting box floor, will they be able to sit well? There should be more eggs coming, to complete the clutch. Will they be fertile? And if all these are well, will the chicks then be as good as we would want them to be?

For now, all I can do is to wish for the best.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Update on the breeding of first-molts

About a month ago, I paired up Rock, a seven month old first-molt, to a female named Ross, also a first molt. Rock is the son of Funkie, out of Fatina and Ross, now about 9 months old, is bred by DDS. Ross laid her first egg this morning. I took a picture this morning when Ross was done with the laying. I am not too happy with the nest. The sunken area to hold the eggs is not well cushioned at the base. Ross is young and inexperienced and the nesting area is a little too large. We will just have to wait and see what happens next.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Parental egg destruction - Part 4: The no-frills nesting box just wasn't good enough for Lady CN?

Jalan Bunga Raya translated to English, is 'Hibiscus Street'. It is a minor street flanked on both sides by old shop houses. Like everywhere else in Malacca, there is no big red flowers to be seen here. No hibiscus flowers, no hibiscus leaves and not even a twig of hibiscus for a clue as to why it is the national flower and the name of this street. Instead, the street abounds with push-cart stalls, many of them peddling Chinese cooling teas (liang teh). Perhaps, one day when Mr Yuppie Yap becomes the governor here, he would change the name of this street to 'Herbal Tea Avenue', or something like that.

Besides the herbal teas, there are quite a few shops here selling a variety of artificial plants and flowers and they were the reason we came. Surprisingly, even these shops do not carry anything that resembles the hibiscus. Anyway, we did not come here to look for the national flower. We bought a cluster of artificial foliage that were meant to look like bamboo leaves. For good measure, we  took a small bunch of purplish silk flowers as well.

Back at my place that afternoon, we stapled the artificial leaves and flowers onto the nesting box, being careful to arrange them in such a way as to leave enough space for an entrance to allow the parent birds to comfortably access the nest inside but otherwise, the leaves were roughly arranged to criss-cross over the top of the nest, like a natural cover over it. This also further darkened the entire nesting area. 

The next morning, on 17th March 2014, when Lady CN was done laying her second egg of the clutch, she emerged from the nest and for the first time, she did not carry the egg out with her. The third and final egg of the clutch was laid the following morning and she proceeded to incubate them from that day, just like any other well-behaved female shamas would.

Was it really that simple that the lady merely needs to be appeased with flowers and bamboo leaves or was there a more complex underlying explanation to the simple solution? I will never be sure.

Somehow, when I was staring into the nesting box on that day when the first egg of the clutch was destroyed, something in there told me that the no-frills nesting box may just not be adequate for this fussy hen.