Monday, August 24, 2009

Oriental White-eyes

The most popular cage bird in Singapore and Malaysia is the Oriental White-eye
(z. palpebrosus). For shamas, having 50 birds in one place would be a good number but it is not unusual to find 300 to 400 Oriental White-eyes at each of the more popular gathering places in in Singapore on Sundays.

The cages for these birds are very small and each owner can comfortably carry 2 to 6 birds. Canvas bags can even be purchased for the specific purpose of carrying cages for these birds. These bags look very much like large shopping bags with each bag being able to hold up to 3 cages. This enables the more enthusiastic hobbyist to personally transport 6 cages at a time with the help of 2 of these bags, one bag in each hand.

The Oriental White-eye is also known as Mata Puteh (i.e. “white eye”) in Malaysia and Singapore. This name is derived from the ring of white around the eyes which thicken as the bird gets older. I will refer to the Oriental White-eyes as Putehs (for short) in the rest of this post.

On Sunday 15th August 2009, I purchased 8 Putehs that were selected from a communal cage. When Putehs are chosen from a communal cage, there is always the hope that one of the selected birds will eventually, with proper care, develop into an outstanding specimen, with a value many times the price of the original purchase.

There is no guarantee that any of the birds from a communal cage will turn out to be special so a great deal of time and effort may be invested in the birds without any worthwhile success after many months of effort. I suppose that's what makes this hobby interesting - a possibility of finding a rare gem, which was acquired at a very low price.

I kept Putehs many years ago. Then, as now, I do not keep Putehs in the usual way. The conventional method is to house each Puteh in a small cage and to bring the bird often to Puteh gatherings to get it used to the company of other Putehs. The outings also test the courage of the Puteh as it is a brave bird that will sing its territorial song when in the company of many other Putehs who may also be singing their territorial song.

I neither have the time nor the inclination to keep Putehs in this way. Rather, I prefer to house new Putehs in a small aviary and to select a few at a time and place them in individual cages to assess how each is progressing and its potential from the hobbyist’s point of view. Those that are not up to the criteria that I have in mind, go to new homes and new Putehs may take their place so that over a period of say, a year, I might eventually end up with up to 12 Putehs that meet my requirements. These birds will continue to be primarily housed in the aviary with perhaps a few in cages at any one time.

It was with the above in mind that I started with 8 Putehs. I placed them in a small aviary in my garden in a location which is likely to be safe from lizards and other nuisances that could disturb them at night. Over the next few days, I checked the birds in the morning to see if they were OK. Two had some blood on their noses. I was not too concerned as these birds had probably injured themselves in the course of housing in the new place rather than that they had been frightened at night. In the course of the week, the birds got to know their new home. They seemed fine on the whole.

Last Saturday morning, my good friend acquired one of the Putehs from me. This left me with 7 Putehs.

On Saturday evening, I spent 2 relaxing hours selecting Putehs from my aviary. I eventually kept 2 of the Putehs in individual cages. Putehs are very curious birds and it is easy to trap them from the aviary. Just place a cage in the aviary with a papaya or other fruit in it and, within minutes, one or more Putehs should enter it. Calmly approach the cage, close the door and remove the cage with the Puteh in it. Trapping the Puteh in this way and observing it for a while to decide on whether I wished to keep it in a cage, I eventually decided on the Putehs to keep in the 2 cages I had at the time.

Yesterday morning, my friend and I took our new Putehs to the guppy farm where I buy the food fish for my shamas. There must have been other Putehs around the farm although we could not see or hear them for our birds got excited and my friend’s bird and one of mine sang their territorial song. We were pleased that our birds showed such promise as it is important that the Puteh be willing to sing in a strange place for this shows courage. Many birds may sing at home but are silent when out of their familiar surroundings. I would not keep such a bird.

My Puteh’s call was also the very desirable ‘tshew’ and he showed promise. All in all, it was a satisfying morning. On Sunday evening, I kept the Puteh that had performed well in the morning and trapped another 2 Putehs for assessment in individual cages. I intend to keep these 3 Putehs in individual cages and assess them during the week. I hope to let you know how my Putehs turn out in a future post.

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