Friday, August 22, 2008

Feeding the Oriental White-eye by Jeffrey Low

First posted in November 2006

In the context of food for puteh in captivity, there is no doubt at all that by providing it with as close a diet as that it has been eating in the wild, one will end up with a healthy bird. However, that would be the best one could achieve, i.e. having a puteh as healthy as the ones in the wild. The tradition of song bird rearing in the east goes back a very long way. Unlike our western counterparts, the goals are a little different. The westerners enjoy seeing birds in captivity living in a way as close to that of their wild cousins as possible and hence they will try to simulate conditions in captivity as such, like providing large aviaries decorated with materials of the natural habitat of the species and food that is as natural as possible. In the east, birds are kept in small cages, for the ease of bringing them out to pit their singing skills and form with others. Here is where birds like the puteh is seen in conditions that far exceed those in the wild. The form (api) and energy level all year round of a top class competitor is not just merely that of a healthy wild bird.

The oriental methods of bringing out such form and competitiveness in our putehs lacks not in results but in proper documentations and scientific explanations. Food is one very important aspect of this traditional method of keeping birds. Not only are the types of food important but also the proportions of each type of food in the total combination, i.e. the amount of dry food, the fresh fruits and live food taken by the bird on a daily basis. Here is where I would like to point out that the old timers judging the bird by its droppings is not completely a misconception or myth. It is through the droppings that a old timer expert can tell the condition of the bird and whether it is been fed correctly (i.e. according to the eastern method).

My attempt to explain all these may not be good enough to justify why the old timers think that if the putehs droppings are too watery, the bird is not in tip top condition but if you would go to a competition ground and look at the droppings of the top winning birds, it might just convince you so. Also, allow me to quote a few things you have mentioned and try to explain the other school of thinking.

Quote: I believe that most forumers would agree with the logic that as birdkeepers or even if you are keeping other animals (dogs, cats, fish etc) you would try to provide the animal with food which is its natural diet.

Explanation: The oriental method of keeping softbill songbirds is to provide it as part of its diet, a dry staple that had over time proven to be a very reliable source of sustaining the form and energy level of a competitive bird. The ingredients that goes into such a dry staple is anything but close to the natural diet of the wild birds. It would be difficult for me to provide you with a detailed breakdown in nutient values of these dry staples or any scientific explanations (as in many other things oriental) but just compare the conditions of putehs fed on this type of food as opposed to those fed on nicely packaged imported western brands of softbill food ( formulated close to the natural diet of the wild bird) and you will see what I meant. Of course, the other parts of the diet will consist of fruits and insects too.

Quote: An animal such as a bird (or any other animal except Carp) eats only what is necessary and never overeats. So you may stick a whole apple or orange inside the cage, but the Puteh will not gorge itself to death, instead it will peck only a small portion of it.

Explanation: It is true that the puteh will not gorge itself to death on the fruits, but if it likes it better than the other food that is also provided (e.g. dry food and insects), it will eat more of the fruit and tend to eat less of the others. Hence it goes against the oriental method of giving the right proportion of each type of food to the bird ( I am beginning to see some scientific logic here in providing variety for a better balanced diet). Here is where the droppings will become more watery than would be preferred because it had not been eating in the right proportions. The owners of competition birds will only provide a small slice of fruit each day and hence the droppings are not so watery. I am not disputing the fact that it is ok to have loose droppings but merely explaining why some think it is better to have the right consistency in the droppings.

Quote: So how did this 'fact' about too much fruits come about? The old timers tend to equate their pet birds' faeces with the human variety - and that is incorrect

Explanation: The old timers do not equate birds faeces with that of human as you have perceived but they actually analyse it to come to the conclusion as to whether the bird is fed correctly (according to the proven method they believed in) and if it is in good form.

Quote: If you, the birdkeeper, has watery (or soft) faeces, then there is cause for worry; but a Puteh's faeces is expected to be watery since its natural diet consist largely of liquid & soft food - nectar and fruits. If your Puteh's faeces is hard - you should be worried.

Explanation: It is true that there is no cause for alarm if the birds droppings are watery because of the fruits and food with high liquid content but if the method of keeping the birds (the top competition birds) is to provide them with a combination of diets that result in firmer stools, there is likewise nothing to worry about (I don't see any of the owners of competition winning birds being worried about the firmer stools of their birds).

As mentioned earlier, the traditional method of feeding putehs may lack logical scientific explanations but over the long period of time have proven to achieve what we see in the competition grounds and chai places - of birds in tip top condition and form. Due to the fact that the chinese way of keeping softbill songbirds are not well documented and explained, some of us may perceive certain practices as "myths or misconceptions". Certainly, food is not the only thing that goes into achieving the final goal. It is only part of the whole, proven traditional method which also includes training.

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