Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ideal at Night Gathering

Below is the video of Ideal that was taken at the shama gathering at Jurong East, Singapore, last Friday night, 1st September 2006.

This was Ideal's first shama gathering after his recent molt. The night ride in the car did not trouble him much. When we reached the gathering, he starting making his "tek" "tek" sound before the cloth covering his cage was removed. This showed that he had not lost his confidence as a shama that is afraid will keep still and not make any sound.

I removed the cloth and hung his cage amongst the other birds. His song and display continued to improve as he performed. The result was that I stayed an hour although I had initially intended to stay about a 1/2 hour or so.

I expect that Ideal will reach his top form in time for the shama day competition at Tiong Bahru, Singapore, on 15th September 2006. I have not decided if I will compete him. He will only be 15 months old by this date and I am reluctant to compete a young bird. However, if he seems in very good form, I may do so.

Hi David,

Watching this video take of Ideal, you should enter him for the competition. From my experience taken in SENOR and Y&D which they got first placing at the Penang Competition last year, Ideal is surely ready for this coming Sept 15th. And under your always FOREVER and ever careful care I see no resson you should not.

This video play of Ideal shows that he is in top shape and the display sure shows that he has strong character. In Malaysia what more can we ask for?

The competiiton in Penang usually is just 2 rounds of judging and the time span is usually 45 mins to 1 hour depending on the entries. You will agree that Shama with long tail probably thats about the max. time they performance best. I am not sure in Singapore if its more rounds of judging or ???

This morning I took out " Hurricane " ( the wild cock tail shama I told you 2 1/2 months ago ) to the small Shama gathering here. His display is good too but not as good as Ideal. He still have those "stage fright " a little here and there been just months in captive. But I am quite happy with his performance. The tails when it goes up, the body shape looks like a "S". Something like Suhaimi "WILD BIRD". Ah so... Suhaimi is pestering me to have Hurricane enter in this month competition and well I might consider entering him. I just might. But before I will have to see his performance in a bigger gathering.

Well, GOOD LUCK if you so decide to enter Ideal, if not than another 6 months of waiting right?
Lastly it doesn't matter if we get first or last, importantly that it will agree on this too, right?

Hi PK, Andy,

Thank you for your comments. They raise interesting points.

I don’t think Ideal is in top form yet. When he was brought to Jurong East last Friday, he had completed his molt for only 2 weeks. It takes about 1½ to 2 months after the molt for a male shama to reach top form or breeding condition. This can be seen from the fact that I know from experience that if the male and female shama are paired earlier than 1½ months after the male’s molt, infertile eggs will result. The reason is that during the molt, the gonands (internal sexual organs) of the male shama are at their smallest and it takes approximately this time for them to reach their full size. Once this happens, the bird is in breeding condition i.e. top form.

Another indication that Ideal has not as yet reached top form is that the flesh inside his beak has not turned fully black. When the bird is not in form such as during the molt, the inside of the beak is flesh colored. It is darker now than it was during the molt and this indicates that Ideal's form is rising. It can also be seen from the video that Ideal's feathers are not tight against his body as they will be when a male shama is in top form.

Further, a bird that can win first prize at a competition should be able to sing with only short pauses. Each pause should not exceed 3 seconds on average. I can verify this as I have counted and averaged the pauses between songs of a male shama in top competitive form. Ideal has not as yet reached this stage.

Last Sunday, I brought Ideal to the Rifle Range Nature Reserve in the early morning. The purpose was to get him used to car travel and to strange places so as to increase his confidence while away from my home. After his outing on Friday, it could be seen that his form had risen a little as his wings were tighter against his body. However, he has not as yet started to sing in the car. He will do so when he is used to car travel and he is completely relaxed. I will need to bring him out a few more times for this purpose.

I have no doubt that Ideal should be in sufficiently good form to compete on 15th October. My concern is that if his cage is placed next to an adult bird that is in top form (as you know, the location of the cage depends on ballot) the long exposure to such a bird may have a long term adverse effect on his confidence as he is still very young.

My friend Ling Heau Dong, whose 2 articles on training shamas for competition are on my website, tells the story that he once competed a young and very promising male that clearly had the potential to be a champion. The cage was unfortunately placed next to a veteran campaigner. The song and display of the veteran campaigner caused the young bird to stretch his own song and display to the utmost of his ability. The 2 competed vigorously during the competition with the result that Ling's bird won first prize and the other bird second. However, Ling says that his bird must have overstretched itself with lasting adverse consequences as it never performed as well afterwards.

A problem that I have with preparing a shama for competition is that I tend to have too many in-form birds in my house at one time. Most shama owners keep only 1 to 2 birds and would not have this problem. I presently have 9 adult males and a number of juveniles and females. When an adult male gets excited and sings, all the birds in the house are disturbed and they sing and display. It is therefore not possible to keep the bird properly rested that is being prepared for competition. To overcome the problem, I try to keep as many of the birds in aviaries as I can and the birds in the home are kept at least 10 meters apart.

The shama competitions in Singapore are usually for 3 rounds of ½ hour each for a total of 1½ hours. This is somewhat the same as in Penang but different from the shama competitions in Hanoi, Vietnam which usually last for 3 hours or so. I think this is really too long.

For me, the main aim of a shama competition must be to test the bird's courage, display and song, and, to a lesser extent, its endurance. Where the competition is over 3 hours, too great an emphasis is placed on testing the bird's endurance. Thus, the winning bird may not necessarily have good display or song. In fact, excellent display and song are frequently casualties when the competition is long drawn. In the latter part of the competition, the birds tend to sing a repetitive song and to have far less display.

Did you notice from the short video of Ideal that he slipped once from his perch? This is because the perch is not suitable. Perches that are provided with good quality bamboo cages are usually varnished and this makes them slippery. I have changed the perch. The perch that I prefer is the branch of, I think, a tree from the mangrove that my good friend William Kwa gets for me now and again. The barks from these branches do not peel off as they dry and they provide a good foothold for the bird.

As regards the diameter of the perch, I prefer those that are about the size of a man's second finger. The diameter should be sufficiently large to enable the bird's feet to wrap more than half-way around it so that has a good grip with its nails coming into contact with the perch. If slightly rough perches such as the type I have mentioned are used, the nails will scrape on the bark each time the bird lands or flys off the perch. This will help to keep the nails trim and avoid the need to catch the bird to cut the nails. I hardly ever do so.

Now, to consider your point that a shama with long tails will not be able to sing and display for more than 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I agree that a shama with very long tails will need to exert more effort than a bird with short tails if it is to display fully during the entire competition. However, I don't think that just because a shama has long tails, it cannot display for as long as a male with short tails.

In my experience, how well and for how long a shama can sing and display depends on factors such as the nutrition and exercise that it has received, its body type, type of tail feathers and the type of its display:

Nutrition and exercise

It must be borne in mind that a shama that is entered for a competition is just like an athlete, a racing greyhound, race horse, racing pigeon, fighting cock or other animal that competes with others of its kind. For such an animal to perform to its maximum potential, it must receive the care, nutrition and exercise that enable it to do so. For instance, a shama that has been kept in a small cage and grown fat through lack of exercise is obviously unlikely to perform as well as one whose diet and exercise have been carefully thought out and implemented.

Body type

The body must not be too small or too large. If the bird’s body is too small, it will not have the necessary muscle to lift its long tails for extended periods. If the body is too large, the bird will be clumsy and its display will not be active. For me, Ideal has the correct body size.

Type of tail feathers

Tail feathers that are long and stiff are thick and relatively heavy. Birds with soft tails have feathers that are not as thick and which are consequently less heavy. The softer and lighter tail feathers are the result of a narrower and therefore more flexible spine that runs along the center of the tail as well as feathers that are so thin that they are almost transparent.

The bird with long stiff tails will have to lift their heavy tails the entire length each time it wags them. The combined effect of having heavier tails and having to lift their entire length will result in the bird needing to expend more energy doing so than a bird with lighter soft tails. This is because with soft tails, the bird will not need to lift the full length of the tails as the top half will lag slightly behind in the up or down stroke. The momentum of the rising lower part of the tails will then cause the top half of the tails to rise. The same principle applies when the bird whips its tails downward. The bird thus expends less energy during a vigorous tail wagging display.

You can put the above to the test. Take a stiff stick and swish it up and down. You should find that it requires more effort to lift the stick as the whole stick, and consequently its entire weight, has to be moved. Further, when the stick is swished upwards, the upward momentum of the stick will mean that the top of the stick is still rising at the time that you start to make the downward sweep. There is thus opposing energy - the bottom part of the stick is falling as you lower your hand while the upper part is rising. More effort will therefore be required to start and stop the upward and downward movements.

After you have tried the stiff stick, take a very flexible and ligher rotan cane and do the same thing. You will find that as you quickly lift the cane, the part closest to your hand, the bottom part, will rise more quickly than the top part. The result will be an arc in the cane. As you quickly lower your hand when the upward swing is completed, the top of the cane that is lagging during the start of the upward stroke will still be rising. By the time you start the downward stroke the cane will be losing its upward momentum and energy. The result is that the upward and downward strokes not only result in a beautiful S in the shape of the cane but you should also find that it is much easier to whip the cane up and down.

Type of display

A bird that “plays the perch� (runs along the perch from side to side) or “plays the cage� (running and jumping all over the cage) during its display will obviously expend more energy than a bird that sings without display, or which, like Ideal, stands more or less in one place and wags its body and tails. In this sense, Ideal is more suitable for competition than a bird that displays vigorously as he expends less energy during his display and can therefore perform longer at the same standard.

I should note that although Ideal only wags his tails, the display is eye-catching as he moves his body when he whips his tails in the air and waves them several times before lowering them unlike most males that only whip their tails up and then down.

For the above reasons, PK, I am unable to fully agree that a shama with long tails cannot display and sing for more than 1½ to 2 hours at a time. Way back in 1990, my close friend Roland Wee had a beautiful shama with 12 1/2" soft tails that the previous owner could not bring to top form. Roland did so by feeding it a variety of live food and giving it proper care. That bird could sing and display for several hours.

PK, it is wonderful that Hurricane is already singing and displaying after you have had him for only 2½ months. Each time we speak on the phone, I am impressed to hear your shamas singing loudly in the background. They are clearly well cared for. “Wild Bird� which was bred by Michael Leong, is one of those birds that are very difficult to tame but if this is achieved, its performance will be spectacular. I kept this bird in an aviary during its second molt and I know it.

Warmest regards,


Hi David

The video show of Ideal is just too impressive that I raised my opinion. As Noan said its breath taking. Often its hard to judge without seeing it. Just like Senor when at gathering he will be eye catchin by those shama lovers but there were times I myself felt he is not performing to the max like he use to. Still he will be the most favorite among the rest even he is not up to the mark as before. Because of his play of dancing on the perch from side to side ,waggin his tails, twist and shout ,etc. thats the display that attracts those Shama lovers. To me if a bird is able to perform those stunt its a bird well worth to try. He deserve it...right?

I agree with you that the car tarvel is important . For any kind of competition bird its important that they are used to it. That day when I took Hurricane out for the first time with Suhaimi he didn't sang at all during the car travel. Today just for a 10 mins car drive training he sang alittle ( I did play on a Shama cd, softly ). It was just a car ride thats all, so when I return I hang it up, he looks more confident then that day during the bird gatherin. I will do this as often as I can.

Your friend Ling Heau Dong bird that won first in the competition and the result that follows wasn't good. I have this experience before and in my case he was too, too often taken to the bird gathering. Too much stress has taken a toll on him and over a period of time he will just lost the appetite as a competition bird. So thats the consequences. Its often perferred that after competition he shouldn't be put on any training programe. Well even MIKE TYSON for the matter after a bout round of fight I think he will take a vacation break, surely he won't be going to the trainin camp again...right? The body and the brain needs to rest.. So a break is necessary.

The choice of placin at competition is everyone wishes. But this is unfair. What I will do is to have Ideal hang next to the most nominating bird at bird gathering just for a short while, and not more than 10 mins I will move it away to other location. This will stable his self with a adult bird if he so meet at the competition. Its possible for Ideal to do that but not for Hurricane, I cannot afford to fright hurricane further on the moving around.

I should think that ideal shoudln't be kept in a quiet place till after the competition. Since he is improving from the last outing he should remain at the same sound enviroment. I feel that the enviroment he has now is an advantages to others that dun have. Put a frequent PUB beer drinkers in a KOPI Tiam for tea I dun think they will remain long. Their butts gets gatah and will wan to leave.

Sorry I didn't notice that Idea slipped from the perch. His feets ok?

I would really like to own a 12 1/2" shama the same like your friend Roland has.This is the type of HARD TO FIND BIRD. Obsolete in the wild maybe.... but not in DAVID house ar? I would say that most of the forum members here ( for Shama ) are looking for a good competition bird not a show bird. Before live food, vitamin etc...( Chicken and Egg situation maybe ) a good potential bird with all the display..structure... strong character etc comes first.. After that we improve his health/energy by givin him the best available. So the question is how to get it? How to select?

Thanks for the compliment about my Shama. Actually I have to admit with your guidance I am able to see my Shama result compare to those days that I have been barking at the wrong trees all the time and I get no answer ...

Wild bird is molting again... yes he is special ..

Thanks David..

Hi PK,

I am not a fan of shama competitions as such. For a competition to be meaningful, it should test all the qualities that are desired in the shama i.e. musicality and variety of song, beauty of structure and tails, display, standing posture, character, endurance and the way all these are combined to make a bird that is outstanding. Unfortunately, with such criteria, there would be very few entries in a competition.

Presently, the shama competitions in Singapore effectively test only the qualities of character and endurance. A bird will win if it opens its beak and “sings� more than any other bird during all 3 rounds of the contest regardless of the fact that the song may be horrible. I knew of a bird that won many contests in Singapore but which I would not have wanted to own although its tails were very long. It had a tendency to sing the same tune over and over and its display was stereotype.

The consequence of the present judging criteria is that a 1st prize contest winner may not necessarily command a high price. For instance, there was a male with short tails that was offered for sale at S$700.0 some time ago but there were no takers at this price. It then entered a competition at Bishan that it won because it was the most hard-working bird. After the competition the owner managed to sell it for S$900.00.

Nevertheless, competitions are useful as we need to test the male shama’s character and endurance and I enter my birds for this purpose. So long as we realize that only these qualities are tested and we do not buy a bird merely because it is a contest winner without seeing and/or testing the bird’s other qualities, there is no harm in having contests.

I don't think it is too difficult to acquire and train a bird that has the ability to win contests. The challenge is to have a bird that not only has the endurance and character to win contests but that also has all the other qualities that make the shama an outstanding songbird.


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