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: