Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I have not been posting on this blog for many months. The reason is that I have a facebook page which I have been updating. For up to date information on my shamas please visit: at

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Longfellow video

This is Pretty Boy's son that was hatched on 2 October 2014.  He is coming to 8 months of age and his form is starting to rise.  He is aggressive and his voice is loud and melodious.  I hope to compete him in due course.

His structure is typical of progeny from Pretty Boy, especially the head.

Friday, May 22, 2015


This is Pretty Boy's son, Longfellow.  He is about 7 1/2 months old and just completing his first molt.  I transferred him from the aviary, where he has been for the past 5 months, to a cage yesterday morning. 

From my observations of Longfellow in the cage yesterday, I think he has the potential to be a top competitor in shama competitions.

There are several characteristics that a top competitor must have. The foremost is that it must be able to withstand the high levels of stress that it will encounter when placed in the midst of many birds when it must be able to perform at its best. Inability to cope with stress can be seen in the bird opening its beak and needing to drink, or fluffing its feathers etc. This is somewhat akin to a person panting from exertion or stress.

Several factors can cause stress to the bird.  Unfamiliar movement from being transported in a vehicle or crowds of people can cause stress.  There is also the stress caused by the presence of the other shamas in the competition.

To an extent, a bird may be trained so that it gets used to stress. This is done by gently stressing the bird for short periods of time initially and gradually increasing the levels of stress as the bird gets used to each stress level. For example, if the bird is not used to crowds, start by hanging the cage in an area at home where people occasionally pass. Also take it out in a vehicle to get it used to its movement.

Stress is different from tameness.  A bird may be unafraid of people and therefore tame but it may still be adversely affected by crowds and by other shamas.

After placing Longfellow in a cage, he seemed to be completely at home in it.  When I carried the cage he was also unconcerned and sang his song.  He displayed, sang and showed aggression when I placed a shama in a cage near it.  A shama that is mentally weak will likely fluff and I never keep such a bird.

I was intrigued by Longfellow as I had never before seen a bird as calm and collected as he was when first placed in a cage.  I took a stick and stress him.  He flew about the cage to avoid the stick but showed no signs of stress.

The other characteristic of Longfellow is that his song is exceptionally loud.  This is important because a loud song intimidates the other birds near it in a competition.  Also, in a competition crowded with birds, a loud song attracts the judge's attention.

How does Longfellow's ability to withstand stress and the loudness of his song compare to Drumbeat, who was champion in a shama competition at the age of 8 months.  Longfellow beats him in both aspects.

There are other requirements of a top competition bird and I have only dealt with 2 of them regarding Longfellow.   Factors such as display, variety of song and stamina will be revealed in due course as he comes into form.  For now, I am very happy to have him and would like to compete him when he is ready.

Another shama that I am keeping my eye on for competition is Skyhawk's son, DDS401.  He is only 6 1/2 months old but he shows promise.  His photo is below:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ziko pairing

Below is a short video of the pairing of Ziko and a female from the DDS line of shamas by Ooi Thean Tatt.  Ziko is a son of Pretty Boy and it was bred by me.  It is now owned by Ooi.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Letter from Honolulu

Eric Dagner's email to me of 5 April

Apr 5 (5 days ago)


I came across your website searching for a white rumped shama 

I would like to share a story with you for insight or to add to your repository
collecting information. 

A few years ago I was clearing an area of land of garbage in suburb very
near downtown Honolulu.  The district is called Makiki on Oahu.  After 
spending some time clearing the land a very young male White rumped 
shama appeared probably just kicked out of the nest. He became named
as Kiki (Makiki). Kiki would come around while land being cleared gobbling
up black beetles, baby centipedes, grubs, worms, termites. moths, 
grasshoppers, fly larvae ect.   For the past 4-5 years I always thought Kiki 
was a female bird.  Maybe it is a male delusion to want to nurture a female.
lol.  As the trees, grass and weeds were being cleared the bird became
fearless of our presence.  Never tried to catch him or his offspring but could
have on many occasions.  I can rake over dirt today with Kiki perched less
than a foot away on look out for beetles and centipedes.  Kiki comes to the
house and demands to be fed (begging) but I love to make him wait to hear
what he has to say.  Sometimes even when there are 40 bugs running
around on the ground he would rather sit in the tree and just chat for no 
reason and that's okay too.

 I just very recently learned what kind of bird Kiki is, a white rumped shama
male, and came across your website.  Just wondering is this a common
relationship people have with wild White rumped shamas?  Or is the 
feeding, weaning of young, trust worth documenting? 

Thank you for your informative website.


David De Souza 

9:12 AM (0 minutes ago)
to Eric
Hi Eric,

I found your email of 5 April most interesting.  The white-rumped shama is 
less interactive with humans than its cousin, the magpie robin which is 
commonly found around the gardens of houses.  However, the shama 
can be lured out to the open by human whistles or recorded songs of 
shamas.  Unlike members of the parrot family that move in flocks and are 
referred to as companion birds as they readily bond with humans if 
acquired at the right age, the shama will not bond with humans in the 
same way.  Nevertheless, it is easy to gain their trust by offering food and
not making any attempts to trap them.

In Singapore, where I am, there are hardly any shamas other than those in
cages and aviaries.  Birds that escape are either trapped or eaten by
predators such as cats.

Your experience of having a shama that is at liberty sing to you close by is 
something that I am sure you enjoy and look forward to.  I am sure that 
people interested in the shama will be grateful if you share photos and 
videos of your relationship with the shama.

Best regards,

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Falcon's chicks

One of my favourite male shamas is Falcon. I used him as a sire for the first time last year when he produced 6 males.  His chicks varied in quality from very good to exceptional. His son, Nighthawk, which has excellent structure and exceptionally long first molt tails exceeding 13", exemplifies the beauty that can be achieved with line breeding.  Another son, Drumbeat, won a shama competition last month at the very young age of 8 months. This proves that with careful selective breeding, long-tailed captive-bred shamas do not lack the necessary courage and stamina to win competitions of the type presently held in Singapore which require the bird to sing and display over more than 2 hours.

In addition to siring progeny of exceptional quality, Falcon is also fecund and capable of producing them in numbers.  Below are photos that I recorded yesterday evening of his most recent chicks.

The first photo shows the chicks asleep.  Their arrangement might look as though I had posed them but this was exactly how they were when I took out the nest-box for the photos. I did so without disturbing the parents.

The 2 largest chicks hatched on the morning of 6 April. The next 2 chicks that are resting on the older chicks hatched on the morning of 7 April and the last chick which is using the 2 older chicks as a pillow, hatched on 8th morning. There was therefore a difference of 2 days between the hatching of the eldest and youngest chicks.

After taking the above photo, I called to the chicks and took the photo below.

When there is a number of eggs in the nest, it is necessary to ensure that all will be properly brooded over. Also, when chicks hatch on different days, there is a high risk that the youngest chick in the nest will be crushed by the older chicks if the space is cramped.  I set out below, what I do to reduce the risk.

I candled the 5 eggs on the 4th day that the female commenced to brood them. All the 5 eggs were fertile but they were somewhat cramped in the small nest cup and were not lying lengthwise as they should.  It was necessary to enlarge the nest.

I use natural broom fibres as shown in the photos and the nest-box itself is slightly larger than a nest would likely be in the forest. To enable the eggs to lie properly in the nest so that all would have an equal chance to develop, I made the cup larger by slightly pressing outwards the broom fibres along the sides of the nest cup. As my nest box is large, I can make the nest cup bigger by quite a lot.

After the first chicks hatch, I check the nest once each day in the evening.  Where necessary to accommodate the growing chicks, I enlarge the cup by pressing the sides of the nest cup outwards a little each day.  As can be seen from the photos, the cup is large, there is no over-crowding and the chicks are comfortable.

Protein and Amino Acids for shamas

I publish below an exchange of emails between Adiko of Indonesia and Jeffrey Low on the suitability of cat food for shamas.

Sent: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 3:45 PM
Subject: Protein and Amino Acids for shama
Hi Jeff..
Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m Andiko from Indonesia.
After I visited your blog, I learned many things, but one thing that most caught my attention is your knowledge about nutrition and food for shama.
Recently, I use a cat food (Royal Canin Exigent 33) for my shamas. In Indonesia, the average protein contained by bird food is about 16-18%. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but I think shama needs more protein content than that. Because I can’t found any bird food that has a protein content of about 30%, I try to looking for another options.
After I found your blog, I’m happy because you have the same thoughts about the protein content :D…It gives me a strong reason to increase the protein content on my shama’s food. After all, who would deny the thought of an expert like you J. So,  I’ve relied on the ideal composition based on what you write on your blog (protein 30%, fat 10% and calcium 1%) and the best food that I can find is RC Exigent 33.
I will give the following composition:

Analysis tableAmount
Arachidonic acid (%)0.39
Ash (%)7.5
Biotin (mg/kg)3.47
Calcium (%)1.26
Fibre (%)3.0
Dietary fibre (%)9.6
DL-methionine (%)1.22
EPA/DHA (%)0.38
Fat (%)15.0
Linoleic acid (%)3.57
Lutein (mg/kg)5.0
Metabolisable energy (calculated according to NRC85) (kcal/kg)3690.0
Metabolisable energy (measured) (kcal/kg)3925.0
Methionine Cystine (%)1.71
Moisture (%)5.5
Nitrogen-free extract (NFE) (%)36.0
Omega 3 (%)0.72
Omega 6 (%)4.07
Phosphorus (%)1.16
Protein (%)33.0
Starch (%)29.4
Taurine (mg/kg)2800.0
Vitamin A (UI/kg)27000.0
Vitamin C (mg/kg)300.0
Vitamin E (mg/kg)600.0
Other nutrientsAmount
Arginine (%)1.64
L-lysine (%)1.59
Chlorine (%)0.9
Copper (mg/kg)15.0
Iodine (mg/kg)3.6
Iron (mg/kg)163.0
Magnesium (%)0.1
Manganese (mg/kg)73.0
Potassium (%)0.6
Selenium (mg/kg)0.56
Sodium (%)0.6
Zinc (mg/kg)241.0
Choline (mg/kg)2200.0
Folic acid (mg/kg)12.9
Vitamin B1 Thiamin (mg/kg)16.3
Vitamin B12 Cyanocobalamin (mg/kg)0.17
Vitamin B2 Riboflavin (mg/kg)58.7
Vitamin B3 Niacin (mg/kg)200.0
Vitamin B5 Pantothenic acid (mg/kg)64.1
Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine (mg/kg)46.1
Vitamin D3 (UI/kg)900.0
I also supply my shamas with live food : Cricket, earthworm, Meal worm, beef meal, ants egg and boiled egg yolk. For the supplement, I provide b-complex almost every day.
But I still don’t know if what I did was meet the needs of the amino acids needed by my shamas. Do you think I still need additional amino acid supplement for my shamas?
And how can we know that what we give has been good enough for shama? Do you have any specific method to look at the quality of food for shama?
Please, I really need an advice from a sifu like you. Please forgive me if I bother you with my questions.
Sometimes I can’t hold myself when talk about white-rumped shama.
Kind regards,

From: jeffrey low <>
To: Andiko Hastungkoro <>
Sent: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 4:15 PM
Subject: Re: Protein and Amino Acids for shama

Hi Andiko,

I am happy to receive your email.

I think what you use is excellent. Except that I wouldn't supplement with too much live food or vitamins if I were to use the same. Reason being that the cat food is already formulated to be very balanced in the nutrients and too much supplementation with live food or vitamins may unbalance it. I would supplement with a small amount of live food in the evening, example with 4 or 5 crickets, more for the enzymes present in whole live food than for the protein.

Another point I will like to share with you is that using dry food as the main source means you have to throw out the dry food every few days, and fill up with new ones. This is because when exposed to light and air, the vitamins in them may lose their efficacy due to oxidation. Some bird keepers will just top up instead of refreshing the whole cup with new food and I think that is not a very good practice.

Also, if you grind up the cat food to feed the birds then you have to bear in mind that the drinking water will be easily contaminated by the powdered food because the birds will drink after eating and inevitably, some of the powdered food stuck in the beaks will drop into the drinking water. A good practice is to change the drinking water first thing in the morning, every morning. Overnight drinking water will have very high bacteria count due to the contamination.

You also have to observe your birds to see if the cat food is easily digested and absorbed well. No matter how good the food is, it has to be digestible by the bird in order to get the goodness and the required nutrients from them. Observe the droppings, and there should be sufficient quantity to reflect to you that the bird is eating enough. Observe the condition of the bird, especially after finishing molt and see if they are doing well. If all is ok, your food is ok.

I wish you the best in this hobby.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Falcon's son, Mr. Cool

This is one of Falcon's sons from this year.  I usually do not name my birds at such a young age.  However, this chick seems to be exceptional and I have named him Mister Cool.

He is a good size for a chick of 22 days of age.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Weekend news

Curve won a consolation prize in the competition at Kim Keat yesterday. About 70 shamas took part in the competition and there were 30 shamas in the final round, including Curve.

I was encouraged by Curve's performance.  This was the first time that he had been in a shama gathering.  He seemed uncertain as to how he should react but he was not afraid or intimidated by the other shamas around him.  His wings were tight to his body and he sang occasionally.  He probably needs a bit more training to do better.

Apart from shamas, there was also a competition for Jambuls (red-whiskered bulbuls) at Kim Keat. I think more than 300 Jambuls took part in the competition with a final round of 80 birds.  Michael entered one bird for the competition and it was champion.

Below is a video of Yuto that I received over the weekend.  He was bred by Jeffrey and he is now owned by Somchai.  Yuto is a young first molt shama that is part of the well known DDS line of shamas. He is an example of the type of shama that Jeffrey, Michael and I strive to produce.  As serious hobbyists, our aim is to breed the shama of our dreams with constant attention to the bloodline and how to improve it by careful outcrossing.  We never try to breed for quantity so you won't find us pairing 20 to 30 pairs just to get the numbers as this type of "puppy farm" breeding cannot produce the quality that we want.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Shama Competitions

I hope to use the shama competitions this year to confirm that my breeding programme is on the right track in all respects. I not only want my shamas to have good song and be beautiful with perfect long tails but they should also have the courage and stamina to compete with all other shamas. In other words, I would like to develop a line of super shamas.

Competitions are useful to assess the shama's courage and stamina. The present contests require the shama to sing and display over 3 preliminary rounds of 1/2 hour each and then a final round of about 1/2 hour or more. A shama that is lacking in stamina will not be able to last the entire competition.

As stamina is a requirement in the present contests, long-tailed shamas compete at a disadvantage against shamas with shorter tails because of wind-resistance, which I have mentioned before.

Nevertheless, I think the disadvantage can be overcome with a careful and selective breeding programme and proper management and nutrition that have the aim of propagating and maintaining a line of long-tailed shamas with the ability to compete in accordance with the present requirements.

There will be a shama competition at Kim Keat this Sunday, 5th April 2015 and I need to select a shama to compete. I intend to enter only 1 bird for the competition due to transportation difficulties.

I have several first molt shamas in good form that I can choose from. There is of course, Drumbeat, who was champion in the competition a month ago and whose form has continued to hold. There are also others, including Curve.

I took Curve out on Saturday with the intention of confirming that he can perform not only at home but that he also has the courage to perform in a strange place.

Curve sang in a forested area some distance from my home so he satisfies the basic requirement of not being intimidated when away from his home.  Here is the video of Curve that I recorded on my mobile phone. There is not much display as there were no shamas nearby that were singing and could challenge him.

Apart from the young birds such as Drumbeat and Curve, I would also like to try out Falcon (Drumbeat's father) in a competition.  He is one of my favourite shamas but until this morning, I had not thought of competing him as he has been more useful as a breeder and he is currently breeding.

This year, he has already produced some chicks that are presently being looked after by his mate.  There is therefore a small window during which he is available to compete and could be entered in the forthcoming competition.  However, my experience has always been that a shama that is being used for breeding will not do well in a competition.  Logically, this must be so since it already has a home to defend and there is no good reason why it should need to challenge outside its territory.

Nevertheless, my inclination is to take the opportunity to try out Falcon in the forthcoming competition before putting him back to breeding.  His father, Skyhawk was a champion and his son is a champion.  He should be given the chance to also try to do well. Even if he does not win one of the top prizes because he is currently being used for breeding, his performance could still help me to assess his character, courage and stamina.

I have the rest of the week to decide on the choice of a shama for the competition.