Friday, June 6, 2008

My Magpie Robin

written Feb 11th, 2007

I hope Ghozze won't mind if I say that the difference in the methods that we respectively advocate to tame the shama is similar to the difference in the methods that are used to tame the horse. Ghozze is in favour of bending the bird to the owner's will while I prefer to use more gentle methods.

I have mentioned on my website that there was once a free-flying Magpie Robin that would take a cricket from my upraised hand in mid-flight. Here's how he was tamed. I had seen a female Magpie Robin in my garden and she did not seem to have a mate. When I was at the bird shop, I decided to get one for her. I bought him and when I returned home, released him into my garden. I then received a surprise for he could not fly at all and could only hop on to a branch if it was about 1 ft. from the ground. Obviously, he had been kept in a cage for so long that his flight muscles were weakened. I toyed with the idea of continuing to let him free in the garden and to feed him but decided against it as cats do visit my home.

I caught him and placed him in an aviary where he would be safe and could exercise his wings. I fed him with live food but made no effort to tame him since my intention was to set him free to be a companion to the female. He recovered his flight muscles quickly and within a week he could fly to the highest perch. I set him free and he disappeared.

Magpie Robins are often in and about my garden as they are attracted by the crickets and other escapees from the shamas. He was no exception and a few days later I saw a male Magpie Robin in my garden that I was sure was him. I threw some mealworms on the ground in front of him but the movement of my hand caused him to fly away. In the next few days, whenever I saw him, I would make it a point to leave some food for him in the garden. Soon, he would land about 20 feet from where I was sitting. The distances became shorter and after a while he would approach to just below my garden chair. Then a jump to the arm of the chair, then to my hand and, after a few more days he would take a cricket or mealworm from my hand in mid-flight. I enjoyed the relationship and would look out for him in the mornings and evenings when he always seemed to be waiting for me.

I came home one day and saw him in my aviary. My helper said that he had entered it looking for food and she had closed the door. I was uncertain what to do. I knew that if I released him, he would eventually go missing. He might be trapped, a cat could get him etc. I considered keeping him in the aviary and letting him out daily to fly free once he accepted the aviary as his home. However, he appeared to have become completely and frantically wild and not to recognize me. I decided that he should have the opportunity to fly free and to take his chances. I let him go. He did not visit for a few days and then he returned. He was a bit wary at first but we soon established the old bond. As expected, one day he did not return. I do not know what happened to him but I can tell you that I missed him.

I return to the subject of taming. Would I have tamed him any faster and more effectively if I had tried to tame him by the method that Ghozze advocates? I doubt it. By the way, after I first released him, the female ceased to visit. I do not know if it was his presence or if something happened to her.

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