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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


A shama competition had been scheduled to be held at Kim Keat this Sunday, 29th March, but it has been postponed to 5th April out of respect for Singapore's first prime minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew who died recently.

I had been preparing Drumbeat for the competition on 29th March. However, a few days ago, he shed a breast feather.  This could be the first indication that he is going into molt.  If so, his form will start to deteriorate and it will not be feasible to compete him.

In its first year, it is usual for a shama to molt twice.  Once, when it changes its feathers from juvenile to adult and then again before the expiry of 12 months from the date it hatched. Drumbeat is now about 9 months old so his second molt is due.

Apart from that one feather, he did not shed any more in the days thereafter so I have continued to prepare him for competition. If he does not shed any more feathers and his form continues to hold I will enter him for the competition on 5th April. This will likely be his last competition before I transfer him to an aviary to molt.

The video below is of Drumbeat this morning.  He is singing at home without being challenged by other birds.  It will be seen that his inner beak is still not black which would be the case if he is in top form.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Letter from France

Hi David,

I hope all is well for you.
I have once more to be grateful to you to enjoin me to use Jeffrey Shama food !
I posted 3 videos today on my youtube channel, of this damaged male i recently acquired. Since I got this male I only gave him Jeffrey shama food absolutely no insects!
Here are the links to the 3 videos to show his rising form, I never ever got such top form Shamas in my life !


Blog Shama Club France

Monday, March 9, 2015

Drumbeat and others

Most shamas that take part in a competition will show better form on their return home.  Even those shamas that were intimidated by the other birds at the competition and did not perform, will sing more for the 2 days after the competition.  Their return home to the familiar surroundings that is their territory will trigger their territorial instinct and they will sing to demarcate it.

However, the stresses of a competition can result in a molt outside the bird's annual molt.  Thus, after singing for 2 days, the excitement of the competition may wear off and the bird may sing less and less. Eventually, if its character is not sufficiently strong, or the competition has over stressed it because of its young age, the bird may suffer a "stress" or "false" molt.

Whilst Drumbeat had performed well in the competition on 1st March, I was concerned that he might have overstretched himself as he is so young. At home, I placed his cage in a quiet corner so that he could relax after the rigours of the competition.  Bear in mind that the competition lasted for a total of 2 1/2 hours i.e. preliminary rounds of 1 1/2 hours, 1/2 hour waiting period during which the cage is covered but the birds can hear and respond to the other birds, and a final round of 1/2 hour.

He sang well at home during the first 2 days though I could see that he was tired.  He did not sing less on the third day.  Instead, his form started to pick up.  The video below was recorded on the evening of the 5th day and shows Drumbeat at home.  When he jumps to the sides of the cage and then lands on the perch, it will be seen that he is light on his feet. Also, he continues to sing at the sides of the cage or on the floor though this is not well recorded in the video.

The video suggests that Drumbeat has recovered much of the form that he had on the day of the competition.  He seems to enjoy competition and he should have a great future as a competitor and subsequently as a breeder. This is the type of character that I have bred in my line of shamas and that I hope to continue to improve upon in all aspects.

Last Thursday, I transferred Drumroll from aviary to cage.  He is Drumbeat's brother from the same nest.  He has the same strong character as Drumbeat and may do well in competition.  His form is rising but much work remains if he is to compete.

Sting's form is also rising.  Here is a photo that I took on my handphone this morning.

Below is the video of Pretty Boy's son, Zico. He has recently completed his molt.  He is with Jeffrey.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Sting's form continues to improve after his recent molt.  He is now a little plump as is normal after the molt but I expect he will slim down and attain top form in about a month.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tribute to a shama competitor

As I mentioned in my post below, the shama competition held at AMK159 on Sunday, 1st March, had 3 preliminary rounds of 1/2 hour each with a final round in two segments of 15 minutes each.

Desmond Oh, who is well known in shama circles in Singapore and overseas, entered 3 shamas for the competition.  One of them topped the preliminary rounds with 74 1/2 points out of a maximum 75 points.  It is a desirable bird with long curved tails.  It sang and displayed beautifully and if there had been no final round, this bird would have been the undisputed winner.

At the end of the preliminary rounds, my shama Drumbeat and 6 other shamas were in a group with 74 points - in second place just behind Desmond's shama.  These birds, all 3 of Desmond's entries and 20 other shamas qualified for the final round of 30 shamas.

BTW, I am not in favour of having a final round for shamas.  What we love in our shamas is their structure, song and display and this can be assessed in a very short time.  A final round assesses mainly the birds stamina as the birds are by then too tired to sing and display at their best.  I have raised this point with organisers of shama competitions but they feel that the competitors prefer to have a final round because the reduced number of birds makes it easier to see if the judges are being fair.

There were two judges for the final round.  Each assessed 15 birds and then changed places to assess the other 15 birds. The points they awarded were then averaged.

Unfortunately, none of Desmond's shamas made it to the top 6 positions in the final round with all 3 birds receiving consolation prizes.

It would have been understandable if Desmond had been disgruntled at the results but there has been no hint of unhappiness or sour grapes whatsoever from him.  Neither has he criticised the judges or claimed that they did not know how to score.  Instead, he has been sporting and gracious and accepted the judges decisions. This is clearly reflected in his Facebook entry where he wrote on 1st March,  "Today comp at amk 159. Get three consolation.  Good start of 2015."

His Facebook entry shows that he is a gentleman and a fair competitor.  It would be wonderful if all competitors are like him.

The exchange of messages between Desmond and me below reinforces my opinion of the type of competitor he is.

[03/03 16:09] David De Souza: Hi Desmond, I put up this post on my blog. Hope you don't mind. David

[03/03 16:28] Desmond Oh: It ok David . I m just out to enjoy. In comp got cup no cup I don't mind . As long everybody enjoy the game. See a lot of improvement from your breeding. Wish one day we can exchange opinions. ��������

Monday, March 2, 2015

Weekend update

Drumbeat in competition

Falcon's 8 months' old son, Drumbeat, was champion at yesterday's Kebun Baru Bird Club shama competition at AMK159, Singapore. Almost 90 shamas competed.  This is about the maximum number of entries for a shama competition in Singapore.

Male shamas come into their prime at about 4 years of age.  This is when they are fully mature and physically and sexually at their peak and able to conquer and defend territory. As a rule therefore, I do not like to compete first molt shamas that are only a few months old, such as Drumbeat. It's like putting a teenager in the boxing ring with a professional adult.

There was a good reason for breaking this rule in Drumbeat's case. I had bred his father, Falcon, for the first time last year when he had produced 6 males.  They all had the structure that I have come to expect from my line of birds.  While there was varying tail length on completion of their first molt, the variance was from 10 3/4" to 13" which is normal. The offspring with the longest first molt tails was Nighthawk.

Being satisfied with Falcon's ability to produce offspring of desirable structure, tail length, soft feathering, display and song, it only remained to assess and confirm the extent of the courage and endurance of his offspring from last year. By assessing his progeny, I would be able to confirm that Falcon is capable of producing offspring of the type produced by Apache, Skyhawk, Pretty Boy and my other shamas, i.e with strong character and display, that can perform exceptionally well in any gathering of shamas. The best way to ascertain this, was to test the courage and endurance of one of Falcon's sons in a competition.  I chose Drumbeat as he had completed his molt and was in form. I already knew that he had courage from his performances in small groups of shamas, such as at Michael's home, but the competition would fully test and confirm the extent of his courage and endurance in a large gathering of shamas.

Drumbeat has a characteristic that is not often found in shamas and which is something that I desire to breed true in my line of birds. Most shamas (naturally) tend to be stressed by unusual new experiences and need time to adjust before they can perform. For example, they tend not to sing and display well the first few times they are transported in a vehicle.

With Drumbeat, though, he seemed to enjoy his outings from a very young age.  On his very first transportation in a car, he was quiet and relaxed during the trip and able to perform immediately at the end of the journey. He reminded me of shamas with super strong characters such as Apache's sons, Cochise, Piston and Funkie, and some other shamas I have known.

Drumbeat's ability to remain unstressed stood him in good stead in the competition yesterday.  I arrived late, just as instructions were being issued for the cage covers to be removed for the start of the competitiion. Consequently, his cage cover had to be removed before he could be given time to recover from the journey. This was undesirable especially as it was Drumbeat's very first competition.  Actually, before this, he had not even been brought to a shama gathering (chai tio) and his training outside the home had comprised mainly of getting him used to people and testing him in small groups of 2 to 4 shamas. There was no need to be concerned. Drumbeat performed immediately the cage cover was removed.

Yesterday's competition was organised in the same manner as most competitions in Singapore nowadays.  There were 3 preliminary rounds of half an hour each and a final round of another 1/2 hour.  Between the preliminary rounds and the final round there was a wait of about 1/2 hour whilst the points were tallied to obtain the average marks of the 3 judges (who had assessed 30 birds each in rotation) in the preliminary rounds.  The top 30 shamas (out of 90) are chosen for the final round which is scored by 2 judges who assess 15 birds each in rotation and the marks are then added and averaged.

Very young shamas, even those with strong character, seldom do well in a competition where there is a final round as they tend to lack the endurance of shamas in their prime.  I was therefore pleased at Drumbeat's performance over the 4 rounds.  He confirmed my faith in him and in Falcon as a producer of outstanding shamas. To maximise the offspring from Falcon, I will be breeding him "polygamously". I hope to write on this topic at some future date.


Sting is completing his 3rd molt and I transferred him from aviary to cage yesterday.  He has had a very good molt and is already coming into form as can be seen from the video below.

I have not decided if I will breed or compete him this year.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2015 season

Last December and early January were cold months with unexpected heavy showers, cooler weather and strong winds.  It is now late February; the Monsoon rains have stopped and the breeding season for birds has commenced. I have paired my few selected pairs and they are doing well.

I was fortunate last year in getting a number of chicks from my difficult to breed males, Ballet Dancer and Skyhawk.  Ballet Dancer was 13 years old last year but he had more chicks last year than any previous year.  Amongst his male offspring were Samson and Curve.  For this year, he has been loaned to Michael.  Skyhawk also had more chicks last year than any other year but as the chicks came towards the end of the year,  I need to wait until they have completed their first molt to be able to better assess their quality.

Until this year I have not been able to have any chicks from Apache for the past 3 1/2 years.  He is the father of Cochise, Piston and Funkie.  These are birds that are well known for their courage, song and display.  Since the hatching of Piston, I have paired him each year in the hope of getting chicks from him but he has been largely unproductive.

With the knowledge and experience that I had gained from successfully breeding Ballet Dancer and Skyhawk last year, I had greater hope of also achieving success with Apache this year.  I have been lucky.  The January pairing resulted in infertile eggs but in February, 2 of the 4 eggs were fertile and hatched. The aim now is to try to continue to improve on his fertility.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Drumbeat's songs

In addition to the usual shama songs, Drumbeat also has his own mix of songs that I find pleasant.  Here are some of them:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Prime, DDS292

Falcon's son, Prime (DDS292).  He is 5 1/2 months old and just completing his molt.

I don't have a problem with my shamas being too tame but I can have a problem with my captive bred shamas being too wild if measures are not taken to keep them tame.

After the young males are weaned, I keep them in cages so that they can get used to people and being handled in the cage.  During this time, they are taught to bathe in the bath cage.

When the juveniles are about to molt, I transfer them to the garden aviaries.  While in the aviaries, I occasionally throw some live food on the floor when I visit them.  This helps to keep them tame but not over-friendly to people which is something I do not want.

After the molt, when I transfer the young birds back to cages, they remember what they have learnt and it is no problem getting them to bathe in the bath cage.

If the birds are initially reluctant to enter the bath cage, they can be coaxed to do so by having a few crickets swimming in the water. Their desire to catch the crickets soon overcomes their hesitation to enter the bath cage.