Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 season

This year's breeding season is proving to be very interesting.  Below is a video of Firefly that was recorded after his first molt.

In February this year, I bred him for the first time with a female that was also being mated for the first time, so the quality of their offspring was unknown.  The initial results have exceeded expectations.  Here are photos of one of his sons at 32 days of age.

The taimong's tails will be fully grown at about 65 days of age for long tailed birds.  It takes fewer days to reach full growth for shorter tailed birds.

If a taimong seems to have the potential to have long tails, I cannot resist measuring the tails when the taimong is 32 days of age.  I will again measure the tails when they have achieved their full length.

Taking measurements at 32 days of age will give some indication of the eventual length of the taimong's tails when they are fully grown.  I have found that if a taimong's tails exceed 3" at 32 days, there is a good chance that its tails will exceed 6" when fully grown.

Taimong tails exceeding 6" for my line-bred birds will almost invariably result in tails of 11.5" to 13.5" after the first molt.

Firefly's taimong tails at 32 days was 3.25".  If I recall correctly, they grew to a length in excess of 6.5" and his first molt tails were 13.5".  His son's tails at 32 days is 3.4" and if they continue growing at this rate, they should also exceed 6.5". An indication that the taimong tails will likely be long is the fact that the white tails are presently the same length as the black tails and look like they still have some way to go.

Early rapid tail growth may not necessarily result in full grown taimong tails of 6.5".  For example, Boy Wonder's taimong tails at 32 days was 3" but they stopped growing at 5".  Nevertheless, as a breeder, early assessments of tail length, conformation and potential development make matters interesting.

Firefly's son has made me excited not only in the length of his taimong tails so far but also in his conformation.  Both the sons are likely to be larger than Firefly and with better overall conformation although it must be said that there is nothing wrong with Firefly's conformation. 

Another thing that excites me is that the taimong's brother from the same nest has similarly long tails and looks like his twin.  Not only are the tails long but they are also piped, being close together instead of spreading out.  As Jeffrey has noted, a bird's feathers are a window to its health and the taimong's piped tail feathers and shine reflect its good health.  The piped tail feathers also suggest that the birds are not likely to have tail faults, such as scissors tails, after the first molt.

The uniformity of the tails and physique of Firefly's sons suggest that he is prepotent, at least when mated with the female that is the mother of these chicks. This also is something to be grateful for.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Shamas for sale - Taimong tail length

I have inbred my shamas for so many years that I know, from past experience that I am not likely to get male shamas with tails below 10" after the first molt even if their taimong tails are very short.  I would classify taimong tails of my shamas as very short if they are 5" or less, measured tip to tip.

At the other end, my taimongs with tail length exceeding 6" have invariably had first molt tails of 11.5 to 13.5".

I am often surprised at the length of the first molt tails from taimongs with short tails.  The tails have almost invariably exceeded 10" after the first molt.  Of course, this does not mean that I will be able to predict with certainty the length of the first molt tails. Sometimes, taimongs with tails exceeding 5" have also had first molt tails of about 10".

To a large extent, buying a taimong is a gamble as to how it will turn out.  Its just like buying a puppy.  The breeder grades the puppy according to its parentage and his early assessment of its conformation, temperament etc but even the experienced breeder can make mistakes.

Below are 2 shamas that had taimong tails of 5".

This is a photo of Apache's grandson, JL54, with Flame's daughter. He was bred by Jeffrey out of Funkie. Flame's daughter was bred by me and she is now owned by Jeffrey.

JL54 had taimong tails of only 5".  His brother, JL57 had longer taimong tails of 5.5" but, after the first molt, JL54's tails were 11.5" and JL57's tails were about 10".

Jl 54 had a small problem with feather mites which Jeffrey has treated.  Feather mites affect not only the beauty of the tails but if they are present during the molt, may also affect the length. I expect that he will look really wonderful after his next molt under Jeffrey's care.

Boy Wonder
Another of my captive-bred shamas that had 5" taimong tails is Boy Wonder.  He is a direct son of Ballet Dancer. He was hatched on 21 October 2013 and he is 6 months old today. The photo below was taken over the weekend and shows him towards the end of his first molt. I estimate his tails to be now about 10" but I think that they are still be growing and I hope they will reach or exceed 11".

Boy Wonder is turning out fabulously. He is above medium size, with a good conformation and strong temperament.  He tends to hold out his wings a little just like Falcon, a characteristic that I would like in all my shamas.  I will only be able to confirm this after he has been transferred to a cage and he comes into good form. He will likely be added to my stud birds in due course, probably after the 2nd molt.

Shama videos

Over the weekend, I recorded some videos of shamas.  The video below is of Darren Yeo's Chilli with a 7" female in the breeding aviary.

The video below is of Sunny Lim's top competition grade shama.  It has a wonderful variety of songs and the strong character necessary to compete.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sunday Chai session

Below is another video of the chai session that my friends and I had last Sunday at Michael's home. The camera first focuses on Michael's 9 months old shama.  It then moves slightly right and lingers on NGTC's shama in front and my shama, Jazz, behind it. The camera then moves slightly right again to showcase Michael's eight months old shama (in front of the urn) before finally moving right again to show Darren's shama (banded AP144) in front, and behind it, the other shama brought by NGTC.

There will be a shama competition on 28th April 2014 and Michael intends to enter his 8 months old shama.  It has a very strong character and loves to compete.  I am sure it will do well although it is so young. I will post on how it performs.

Below are some photographs that I took last weekend of Falcon in the breeding aviary.  The female is Funkie's daughter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shamas for sale

The response to my invitation to shama hobbyists to register their interest to acquire a taimong from me has exceeded expectations.  I have received many emails in which the writer says how happy he is that I am finally making some of my birds available.  I hope to publish a few of these emails soon with the names withheld.

I think it is fair that potential purchasers be provided with some information of what I have been trying to achieve with my breeding program and whether or not there is any value in getting a captive-bred from me. I therefore intend to set out in this and subsequent posts my rationale for line breeding and what can be expected from my birds.

The first thing I want to say is that if you are buying an adult male shama and you only want it for competition or as a pet at home, then its bloodline does not matter at all.  If you like the bird that you see and the price is what you are prepared to pay by all means get the bird.  Basically, the adult shama is there for you to assess and a good bird is a good bird no matter what its parentage.

The situation is different if you are getting a captive-bred taimong.  Here the bird’s character and features are not yet set and you will need to rely on the honesty, experience and knowledge of the breeder to advise on how the taimong is likely to turn out.   The breeder may tell you that the parents have "long genes", meaning that their tails are long.  This means nothing.  Unless the parents have been closely inbred, their chicks may have no resemblance to them.  

Also, long tails are not everything.  There are other aspects such as character, song, display and structure that are just as important. I would therefore suggest that when buying a taimong, you may wish to obtain more information of how long the breeder has been breeding, his line breeding methods and examples of the results.

Be careful about the seller who offers you a taimong and tells you that he expects it to turn out a certain way after the molt and that if it does not he will exchange it.  Ask yourself, if you are not happy with how the taimong turns out, is this seller likely to give you a better bird in exchange.  He has already taken your money and there is no financial benefit to him in changing the bird for a better one.

If you intend to breed shamas only for the experience of doing so, there is no need to get the top quality.  Its different if your objective is to breed shamas with specific traits of character, structure, display, song, long tails, soft feathers etc.  In such case, you will probably want to get highly inbred birds that already exhibit the traits that you want. When these birds are bred there is a much higher chance that they will be able to pass on their genes to their progeny.

In formulating my breeding program for my shamas, I researched what had been done with horses, dogs, birds and others.  In every instance, I found that that the characteristics that have been consistently produced were the result of line breeding over a considerable period.  I would like to say something today about the influence that the breeding of racing pigeons had on my thinking.

Pigeon racing is a sport in many parts of the world with cash prizes being awarded to the winners.  As many as 25,000 pigeons may take part in a single race. In the most famous race, The South African Million Dollar Race, the total prize money is US$1,000,000.00 with the winner receiving US$150,000 and the runner-up US$100,000.00.  The entry fee for a 3 bird team (1 entry and 2 backups) is US1,100.00.  Seven thousand pigeons from 36 countries took part in the 2012 race and the race was over 553 kilometres.

It will be seen that for a racing pigeon to do well, it will not only need to have the stamina for the long flight but it must also have the strength of character to endure the suffering that such grueling effort requires. To meet the needs of pigeon racing, the pigeons have been bred over countless generations.  All racing pigeons are inbred in order to preserve and improve on the desired qualities.

People with little or no knowledge of line breeding are often against it as they claim that doing so will produce “nuts and fools”.  This is obviously not true if line breeding methods are correctly understood and applied. If true, the pigeons would be flying all over the place instead of making a beeline for home hundreds of kilometres away from the place of release.  It is only with careful and selective in breeding by people who understand the subject that have resulted in the wonderful pigeons we have today.

In his book, Long-Distance Pigeon Racing, John Clements interviewed 9 top breeders in the UK and Europe on their breeding methods and other aspects of pigeon racing.  Below, are some excerpts from the book with their views on line breeding.

Jelle Outhuyse
Must they (the pigeons) be from an inbred family of performance birds?
            I prefer it if that is so, but today there are not so many successful inbred colonies of pigeons based on a related family.  So I often encourage inbreeding in my own loft, pairing father to daughter or mother to son in the hope that I can preserve the genes of the good ones.

Mevr Deweerdt and Sons
Is it essential that the birds you consider importing into your own family descend from an inbred family of birds?
Yes, I would say if possible we go for inbred pigeons or pigeons from a related family of birds.  We have tried importing pigeons, sons and daughters of champions who were themselves superb pigeons but not inbred or related to a family.  I have to say they were not a success.  Nowadays we don’t consider a cross unless it comes from a family of pigeons.  There are fanciers who have a super pigeon from time to time, but apart from that nothing.  Importing pigeons from this type of pigeon has always been a failure.

Geoff and Catherine Cooper
So when you get the imports or other pigeons in your loft, all you have bought is good genes in an endeavor to make your loft as strong as possible?
Yes, totally. That’s all I want.

Alan Darragh
So in the early days of your loft you brought all these good pigeons together and bred from them to form a family. Did you pick them in any particular way?
I always maintain that blood will sooner or later come out.  It may miss a generation but, sooner or later, if you have the good blood it will come out.  Possession of good blood (i.e genes) is more than just important.  It is essential.

Mark Gilbert
I have been told over and over again in the course of my research for this book that the ideal situation is to have a basic family of related pigeons of high quality and then to cross into them individual top pigeons from a similar but unrelated family.  Do you agree with this?
Yes, I think I do.  I have probably gone over the top with my crosses but I am still learning.  I recognize that this is the time when it is getting harder to make decisions about breeding.  If it were not difficult then it would not be worthwhile.  It is this kind of decision-making that makes the sport so fascinating.  I hope I eventually manage it.

John Clements (author of Long-distance Pigeon Racing)
Line Breeding
… all the fanciers interviewed agree that it is necessary to have very good blood if one is to have even a small chance.  Good blood, as defined by good fanciers, is blood that consistently produces good pigeons time and time again in racing, in breeding or in both.
The importance of having good blood lies at the heart of this book……
….The chance of actually breeding an extraordinary champion pigeon, .. is remote.
Successful line breeders always have a fall back position though, that of being able to produce a good quantity of very good pigeons without producing the totally exceptional.  If the exceptional occurs it is special, regardless of which breeding method is used, line breeders expect to produce good pigeons from within their own family without the expense of having to buy introductions on a regular basis.

In my line breeding program, I have strived to breed only the birds that I would want for myself.  Some of my birds have become well known through the photos and videos on my blog and elsewhere.  I have inbred the birds for many generations, always being careful to eradicate any faults that I might perceive in my birds

Monday, April 14, 2014

Shamas for sale

To the many people who responded to my post of 11 April and registered their interest to obtain a shama from me, thank you. I have acknowledged all the emails that I received.  Your names have been placed on the list and I will contact you if I have a taimong that I think may interest you.  You can then view the bird and decide if it is what you want.

Unlike in previous years and for the first time, I intend to try to breed sufficient male shamas to meet market demand for my birds. Persons who wish to obtain a male shama from my line of birds may therefore wish to register their interest with me at this time so that they can be assured that I will have them in mind.  This is important as I intend to stop breeding when I have sufficient taimongs to meet demand.

As always, I breed shamas as a hobby. It is not my business and I don't intend to make it a business.  My shamas will therefore not be bred using "puppy farm" methods. Pairs will be carefully chosen to match features and characteristics that I myself want and there will be no indiscriminate mass production to satisfy market demand.  As always, I will be fair in my dealings with people who want my birds.

Below is a video of Chilli.  He was bred by me in 2012 and he is now owned by Darren Yeo.  He is an example of the best of what I strive to produce. The video which was recorded by Darren on his hand-phone, shows Chilli towards the end of his 2nd molt but he should still be in sufficiently good breeding condition for a final clutch of chicks before he enters into molt.

Darren has successfully bred him and the early indications are that he is prepotent (i.e able to produce as good or better than himself).

A shama such as Chilli does not come along very often.  In most years, I will be lucky to get one like him.  In 2012, I was exceptionally lucky and had 3.  Last year, I only had one comparable to him.  This year, as I intend to breed more shamas, it is possible that I may have a few of this quality.

Yesterday, there was a small gathering of friends with their shamas at Michael's home.  I brought along my 10" 2nd molt shama, Jazz. He is the son of a 12" shama from Vietnam crossed with one of my females.

The video below shows him at the gathering.  The shama behind him belongs to NGTC.  The shama on the right is Michael's 8 months old shama from Alpha and Killer.  The shama on the left is Michael's 9 months old shama from the same parents.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Breeding Season 2014(1), shamas for sale

For this year as in previous years, my captive shama breeding program has as its aim the production of top quality birds that will be a joy to own.  For me, shamas have always been a hobby and I breed shamas to satisfy my own need to have the type of shama that I want for myself.  I do not, and never had, any wish to breed shamas indiscriminately to supply the market. 

Photos and videos of my shamas can be found in this blog. Below are photos of 2 random examples of the type of male shamas that I strive to consistently breed:

In early March, I paired my top males that were in breeding condition, Ballet Dancer, Falcon, Firefly, Apache and Flame to carefully chosen females. The selection was made on the basis that the birds in the chosen pairs would complement each other so that certain desirable characteristics or features may be improved or retained.

The first crop of male chicks arrived in late March.  Below are photos of 3 of the 4 male taimongs (juveniles) that were hatched in March.  I think they are likely to be males from their bright  markings and very dark colour.

[By the way, the poop on the floor of the cage above is from 4 taimongs at the end of one day.]

[In the photo above, the hind toe of the chick on the right has slipped into the band.  This often happens when the chicks are very young.  Its a simple matter to ease the toe out of the band.]

April should be a very productive month.  All the 5 pairs are sitting on eggs.  As far as possible, I try to let the parent birds incubate the eggs.  I believe that this is the best way of ensuring that quality offspring are produced.  While robbing the nest and artificially incubating the eggs may result in more chicks, the possible long-term detrimental effects are just not worth it.

I candled the eggs of Ballet Dancer, Falcon and Firefly. They have, respectively, 4 eggs, 4 eggs and 2 eggs and all the eggs are fertile. Its too early to candle the eggs of the other 2 pairs as signs of the developing embryo may only appear from the fourth day of incubation.

I have been trying for years to achieve 100% fertility in my breeding shamas and it would seem that the lessons I have learnt are bearing fruit. Another reason for me to be happy with the fertility of my shamas is that poor fertility could indicate that the birds have been over-bred and the fact that my shamas are more fertile than ever suggests that my breeding methods are along the right lines.

The eggs of Ballet Dancer and Falcon should hatch today or tomorrow and Firefly's eggs should hatch in the middle of next week.  The eggs of Apache and Flame should hatch in about 10 days.

BTW, Ballet Dancer was hatched in 2001 and at 13 years of age he is more productive than he ever was.  I attribute his continuing fertility to the lessons that I have learnt over the years in providing good husbandry and management. 

If I continue breeding my shamas at the rate I am doing this year, I will have more birds than I have space for and I will need to find homes for the birds that are surplus to my needs.  There may therefore be male shamas for sale later in the year.

The birds will mostly be sold as taimongs and they should become available to go to new homes from around September this year when they are at least 3 months old. At this age, the taimong tails will be fully grown and the character and type of display will be more evident.  Also, at this age, the taimongs will have had the time and opportunity to learn the songs from my many adult birds.

The prices for the taimongs will range from S$2,500.00 to $6,000.00 or more, depending on my assessment of the potential length of the tails and the bird’s other qualities. 

I price my taimongs on the basis that, with proper care during the molt, the buyer can expect to own a shama that he will not only be proud to own but which will likely also have a market value that is not less than the price that he paid.  

In many cases, the market value after the first molt should be substantially more than the price paid. Be aware though that whilst I price my birds according to my assessment of them, it is not possible to be always correct and things may turn out differently.  A shama that I price low may in fact turn out to have longer tails and be worth relatively more than a higher priced shama as the true potential of a taimong will only be proven after the first molt.

If you are interested in acquiring one of my captive bred male taimongs, please send me an email at daviddeso@gmail.com.  I would be grateful if you could indicate the quality of shama that you are interested in purchasing using the above indicative prices as a guide. If you are a serious buyer, I will place you on the list of potential persons who are interested in acquiring a shama from me and I will contact you when a shama becomes available that meets your requirements. It will help if you provide your mobile number.

N.B. I regret that I do not export my birds and delivery must be taken in Singapore.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Line-breeding and in-breeding

The first 3 photos below are of Skyhawk's son, Falcon.  He exemplifies the type of shama that I have bred and hope to breed. Like his father, Falcon has soft and aligned tail feathers.  He is more macho than his father and shows what can be achieved with careful selective line-breeding. He is one of my favourite shamas. The last photo is of Funkie's daughter.

This year, I am breeding him for the first time. He has been successfully paired him with Funkie's daughter as I hope to combine the best of Skyhawk's genes and Apache's genes.  BTW, Funkie is the son of Apache.  All of Apache's sons have exhibited great courage and display and, with luck, this will be passed on to the offspring from this pairing.

There is a person who has been breeding shamas for only 2 or 3 years who claimed not long ago that in-breeding and line-breeding ("line-breeding") produces only "nuts and fools". I regret that this shows a complete lack of understanding of the principles and results of selective breeding.

It is a fact that if a breeder starts with inferior stock, he is not likely to get anything special and the progeny will likely be inferior no matter how many generations he breeds his birds.  This is not line-breeding.  Just because this breeder's unknowledgeable attempts at line-breeding produced nuts and fools does not mean that the system itself is at fault. It is this breeder's implementation that was wrong. Anyway, if a breeder has only been breeding indiscriminately for 2 or 3 years, this can hardly be described as line-breeding.

This same breeder has recently said that he is out-crossing this year. Now, unless he has been selectively line-breeding and he has produced a strain of shamas, what he has been doing is not line-breeding and merely adding a new male is hardly out-crossing his stock.  It's merely carrying on the same indiscriminate breeding practices that he has been doing in the past 2 or 3 years and the results are likely to be the same.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jeffrey's 4 months old taimong

This juvenile shama was bred by me and it is now owned by Jeffrey Low.  The taimong's tails are more than 6" and the first moult tails can be expected to be in the region of 12"

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Samyong

The songs of both my samyongs have continued to improve. Here is Samyong One today.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Honeysucker in my garden

Every year there are birds nesting in my garden.  It may be a yellow-vented bulbul, dove, mynah or some other species.  Presently, a honeysucker has its nest in my garden.  It is a tiny bird that is not more than 4" in length.  Its long beak enables it to suck the nectar from the flowers and I suppose it chose my garden as its home as the plants are now flowering and there is plenty of nectar for it.  Also, it probably finds the insects that escape into the garden provide the protein that it needs for its young.

The honeysucker has built a beautiful nest hidden in the flowering plants.  Here it is:

The nest is many times larger than the bird.  It has managed to secure the nest to a green leaf and then ingeniously provided top cover by pulling a dead leaf over the nest and binding the leaf to it.

There were 3 eggs in the nest.  One hatched yesterday and this morning there were 2.  I only check the nest when the mother is away.  She perches on the branch of a nearby tree and watches my helper and I as we check the nest.  She does not seem to mind us. I have never seen the father.

I took a photo of the 2 chicks this morning.  In my hurry the photo is not properly focussed.

Just like newly hatched shama chicks, the very young honeysucker chicks do not know to fear humans and they will gape for food when they hear a sound as can be seen in the photo.