Friday, August 8, 2008

Somersaulting Puteh by Jeffrey Low

Is it a fault for a Puteh to somersault?

Jeffrey Low's view

Part 1

All over the world, people keep songbirds for the pleasure of listening to their songs. In the East, such a hobby is taken a little bit further, and enjoyed like an art. Actually it is a combination of both art and science Hence over here, we have cultivated the taste to appreciate birds in a certain way which can be very strange to westerners or new comers to the hobby (but once they have acquired that taste, it will be like getting bitten by a bird bug that will remain with them for the rest of their lives ).

To begin with, we must listen and learn what kind of songs is most pleasurable to our ears (ask the merbok guys to tell you how many years it take to perfect this). Next we must have the eye for a good bird - in the case of the puteh, the way they stand, their physique, their movements etc. Then we must have the patience and know-how to train and nurture it to be close to a stage of perfection vocally and appearance wise. Finally, the way they are being presented in public - the beautiful cages and accessories most suitable to compliment the species of bird. [sorry if I 'tembak' a bit but it is something like that lah].

So as you can see, the serious hobbyist in this part of the world don't just walk into a shop, ask for a puteh, throw it into a cage, hang it up and say, "a puteh is a zosterop and it can sing".....

Ok, now how a bird should sound like, how it should move about, how it should carry itself etc, the guidelines are not set overnight because someone fancy it to be so. Most of these are in some ways, intepretations of the bird in its natural state during the period when it is at its peak. For example, the aggressive territorial songs, the agressive stance and the displays of a shama.

These guidelines are also used in judging birds in the competitions - certain no. of points awarded for song, certain points for loudness, certain points for 'play' etc. etc. Some movements are deemed undesirable perhaps because they don't coincide with the smooth flow of the bird in full display or 'play'. Example: if during the middle of an aggressive territorial display of the shama, it suddenly stops and twist its head in a very awkward way, how would it look like to you? This is also not in anyway the natural movements of a normal shama in the wild. (sorry I use shama because easier to illustrate the point). So such movements are obviously very undesirable when presenting your bird in a competition or in public chai places. Hobbyists refer to these undesirable movements as "tong cheng" (cantonese for bad habits in movements).

Now, for putehs, jumping from the perch to under the roof and back again onto the perch (if that is what you meant by sommersault) - can this be considered a "tong cheng"? It all depends on how people interprete this movement - whether it is deemed to be a natural part of the 'play' or whether it is considered as a distraction from the normal 'play' of the bird. Some do and some don't. During those days when putehs are plentiful, some hobbyists will discard birds with the slightest of 'imperfection' and such movements then could be a little more undesirable than now. Guidelines and intepretations do change because of circumstances. In these days when birds are hard to come by, not many will regard this as an 'imperfection'.

Part 11
Sunny wrote: As Jeffrey has pointed out, if this [somersaulting] is done during a Buka routine , it depends on how and when this is performed in the course of its song repertoire, at time it is a display of aggressiveness or a challenge to the bird close by. This action at times is also accompanied by the bird snaking its head in an aggressive manner...........(maybe we can take it from here and see if what I say below can give you a clearer picture).

We will begin with that particular action of your puteh. It is not exactly a sommersault. Hobbyist usually refer to it as 'hitting the cage roof' and lets use this description from here on whenever we refer to this action (for easier reference).

Here I would like to present a scenario: of 2 putehs both with 'hitting the cage roof' habit.

Puteh No. 1 is in tip top form (full of api). It is also the type of bird with very speedy actions. When brought into a chai arena, this bird is so fired up by the surrounding birds, it goes into action: It 'darts' and 'pumps' all over the cage as if someone had installed a coiled spring inside him. Then it stops and stand on the perch, points its head skywards and with wide opened beak delivers a series of full-forced buka, so intense, its body shook with each note. It 'darts' down to the lower ring, 'shoots' up to the roof and ricochets back to the perch and delivers another series of buka. Down the ring again, up the side of the cage, back to the perch, buka and so on and so on......

Puteh No. 2 has no form (no api). Owner seldom bring him out. It will buka at home in the morning and evening. When brought into a chai arena, this bird 'hops' from the perch to the lower ring. Then it 'hops' from the ring to the perch. It is intimidated by the birds around and so a little fluffed up (ping -pong). It looks up at the roof and 'hops' up. Clinging to the roof clumsily, it 'crawls' a few steps along it , turn its head downwards, as if worried that it will miss the perch and then jumps down clumsily onto it.

The above two birds both have 'hitting the cage roof' habit. The first bird blends it smoothly into its 'play' and the habit when executed as part of the 'play' is not undesirable or noticeable. The second bird when doing the 'hitting the cage roof' movement will look very awkward and therefore very undesirable. Maybe one day, when it has gain enough form and api, it may also blends the habit smoothly into its 'play'.

So in my opinion, 'hitting the cage roof' is not something to be concerned about as long as the bird can blend it smoothly into its 'play'. Sam, hope this illustration is better than the last.


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