Friday, August 8, 2008

Puteh Poopology by Jeffrey Low


Most bird keepers, regardless of the species they keep, will agree that it is a good practice to observe the droppings of their birds and to be aware of the consistency. Wet droppings may be a symptom of some underlying health problems or an indication that the bird is under some kind of stress. The following is written based on my understanding of the puteh’s droppings. To the newcomers, I hope these may serve to give you a better understanding of why hobbyists sometimes judge the conditions of putehs by their droppings.

There are usually 3 descriptions of the putehs’ droppings:

1) Small and firm
2) Watery
3) Diarrhea

1) Small, firm and well formed droppings indicate that the puteh is in excellent physical health and mental readiness to perform. Only putehs that are well acclimatized to a good captive diet and comfortable with its captive environments can produce this type of droppings. The correlation between this type of droppings and the good physical and mental states of the puteh in captivity, was concluded through century old observations likened to that of a very large scaled study.

2) Watery droppings refer to the urine part of the droppings being more than usual. It must not be taken to mean diarrhea. When hobbyists refer to the droppings of putehs as being watery, they are in fact referring to a condition sometimes known as polyuria.

Birds’ droppings consist of three components. The well formed darker portion is the feces. The white semi-solid part of a dropping is the urate and the clear liquid part the urine. A puteh in tip top condition will pass out all three components in small firm blobs. The droppings of a healthy captive puteh are not the same as that of a healthy captive shama. Captive shamas are fed on a high protein diet consisting mostly of insects. Their droppings will have a small fecal portion surrounded by a large urate portion. The large portion of urate in the droppings of a shama is produced by the kidneys resulting from the digestion and metabolism of the protein from the insects. The puteh is not a purely insectivorous bird. Insects should form only a part of its captive diet. If the droppings of a puteh consist of too much urate, then its diet is too rich in protein and that is not regarded as a correct diet for them.

When the puteh’s droppings consist of too much urine (the clear liquid portion), it can be due to any of these reasons or a combination of some of them:

a) A diet that consists of a large quantity of fruits. This is not a concern by itself and the watery droppings will stop as soon as the quantity of fruits is reduced. However, in the long run, too much fruits will reduce the bird’s consumption of the other components of a good captive diet.

b) An incorrect combination of ingredients in its dry staple. The dry staple forms a major part of the puteh's captive diet. A good dry staple is a product tried, tested and proven over many years. It will take as many years as a puteh’s average life span to prove that a product is good enough to keep them in good condition throughout their lives. It should also be tested and proven by a significant number of birds. For this reason, it is very important that a newcomer should not use an unproven recipe for the dry staple. An incorrect recipe does not provide the necessary nutrients required in the right proportions. An incorrect dry staple will also not be digested well. Food that is not digested well will pull more fluid into the intestinal tracts resulting in watery droppings.

c) Bacterial infection of the intestinal tract can also be another common cause of watery droppings in putehs. This is usually brought about by dirty food and water cups. When adding vitamins to drinking water, the puteh owner must be aware that if the drinking water is not changed over a certain period of time, the vitamins in the water will encourage the growth of bacteria.

d) Stress is another common cause of watery feces in putehs. Birds when nervous will excrete urine without the fecal portion. A puteh that is not well acclimatized to captivity will be nervous and produce watery droppings. This is one of the reasons why a new bird will not have small and firm droppings.

3) Diarrhea is a condition when the fecal portion of the puteh’s droppings is completely without form. The droppings consist of so much clear liquid urine that it will soak through many layers of newspaper. Diarrhea in puteh is most commonly brought about by polydipsia (drinking excessively). There are many underlying causes of polydipsia in birds. The most common cause of polydipsia in puteh is deprivation of drinking water over a period of time. When puteh owners forget to top up the drinking water, or when there is leakage from the water cup, a puteh will be deprived of drinking water. Deprivation of drinking water for a day may not kill the bird but once is enough to cause the bird to drink excessively for the rest of its life (polydipsia in puteh caused by deprivation of drinking water is irreversible). I had discussed this condition with a vet but we were not able to come to a conclusion on whether this is a psychological condition or a symptom of kidney damage in putehs.

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