Monday, February 14, 2011

Shama Singing Competition Held On 13th February 2011

Yesterday (Sunday), the Kebun Baru Bird Singing Club of Singapore held its first Shama Singing Competition of 2011.  The venue was Block 159 Ang Mo Kio.

Michael Leong and I entered 3 of our captive-breds.  They were Apache, Sky Hawk and a young male that would benefit from some competition experience.

I had not been keen on entering Apache and Sky Hawk.  Apache had been singing less and less at home. I guessed that he was going to have his annual molt soon and I was not sure that he would be able to perform on a decent level.

As regards Sky Hawk, in December 2010, we had paired him with a female in the hope of getting chicks before the female entered her annual molt.  She had built a nest but then she had molted and we separated the pair.  I intended to pair him with another female but the competition came up and Michael suggested that we enter him and Apache although the birds were not in their best form.

Shama singing competitions in Singapore used to be held over 4 rounds of 1/2 an hour each.  This was too tiring for the birds and they did not display and sing their best in the 4th round.

Nowadays, shama competitions are usually held  over 3 rounds of ½ an hour each.  Three judges assess, in rotation, 1/3 of the birds in each round.  The average marks decide the winners and the losers.

Yesterday's competition was supposed to be over 3 rounds. However, at the end of the 3rd round, the contestants were informed that there would be an additional final round.  It would be in 2 parts of 15-20 minutes each.  There would be 2 judges and they would take turns to assess about ½ of the birds in each part.  The marks would then be added.

The Final Round
Having a final round is generally popular as the number of birds will be reduced by 2/3 and it will be easier to see which birds are performing.  The disadvantage is that the shamas will be really tired and will not be performing at their best.  Consequently, only those birds that are in good form and have the required stamina will be able to still perform in the final round.

Yesterday’s competition was scheduled to start at 9.00am and last for 1 1/2 hours.  As is often the case, the competition started ½ an hour late.  By then,  the birds that came in time for the competition, such as our 3 birds, had already been singing in their cages with cloth covers, for 1/2 an hour or more.  Similarly, after the 3rd round, time was required to tally the marks to decide the birds that would qualify for the final round.  In total, the birds would be singing in close proximity to each other for 3 hours or more.

The top 25 birds out of the 70 or so contestants qualified for the final round.  All our 3 birds qualified.  Sky Hawk's final round competition number was 8 and Apache was 14.  The young male was No. 6.  This was a front row position close to the crowds, as our intention was to use the competition to provide training for him.

Results of the Final Round
Apache and Sky Hawk were the top birds after the final round with marks of 49.8 points each.  They had received  identical marks in both parts of the final round.

The organizers decided that lots should be drawn to decide the positions in those cases where the marks were tied.   As Michael and I do not distinguish between the birds we own, we dispensed with the drawing of lots.  Logically, Apache and Sky Hawk should be deemed to be joint champions since they had identical marks in both parts of the final round.

The 3rd and 4th placed birds had the same 49.5 points each and their places were decided by drawing lots. I think 2 other pairs also tied for lesser positions and they drew lots.

The young male that Michael and I had entered for experience, placed 12th.  I am sure he would have done better if he had not been unsettled by the crowd.

Captive-bred Shamas Are Winning Song Competitions
Contrary to the loud declarations of some people that captive-bred birds are inferior to wild-caughts, the captive-breds have been doing quite well in competitions since my birds started to seriously compete from November last year.

Apache was 6th in the 21st November 2010 competition, 3rd one week later in the 28th November 2010 competition (when his son Helmet was 6th) and joint champion yesterday.  He has improved as he has got used to competition conditions.  His continuous progress confirms that he not only has the qualities of a top competitor but also, and just as important, that the methods that we used in preparing our birds for competition are along the right lines.

Sky Hawk was champion when Michael entered him in the Cyber Shama Competition organized by Dance4Rain in the Malaysian Bird Forum some time ago.  Any concern that he might not be able to compete in an actual competition with the crush of other shamas around him, was laid to rest by his performance yesterday.

One further bit of news - I was told yesterday that Ah Choon’s shama with 13+” tails (that I bred), was champion in the shama singing competition in Penang about 2 weeks ago.  This is his second win in Penang. The first time he had won in Penang was in early November 2010 as I reported in my post on 22nd November 2010.

What This Proves
There is a lot of b/s in the bird forums from some people who hold themselves out as knowledgeable about shamas and freely give advice on their care and breeding.  Some of the opinions and advice is really rubbish.  Amongst the rubbish is that captive-bred birds cannot compete successfully against wild-caughts. Another, is the simplistic observation that line-breeding or inbreeding will result in inferior birds.

One of these experts recently also advised in the Malaysian Shama Forum that shamas bred in small aviaries lack character. G-- knows on what he based his declaration.  Perhaps it was his own limited experience with the captive breeding of his own birds.

The claim of these so-called experts that captive-breds are lacking in character, song and stamina is clearly not true as proven by the fact that birds bred by Michael and me are doing well in song contests. Its all a matter of proper selective breeding for structure, courage and stamina and bringing up the birds with the right food and in the right environment.  Having small aviaries close together and many shamas in the home is a disadvantage when breeding the birds and preparing them for competition but this can be overcome with care and planning.

The captive-breds with long tails showed yesterday that even when there is the stress of a final round, they can still do well.  In fact, Apache (with 12” tails) was probably displaying better than the other birds in the final round. Sky Hawk’s tails well exceed 13”. 

I should note that shamas with long tails compete at an inherent disadvantage against those with shorter tails, regardless of whether such birds are wild-caught or captive-bred. Whipping long tails up and down takes much effort and energy but no marks are officially given for the beauty of long tails.  Where the competition takes a long time, such as where there is a final round, the long-tailed birds are at an even greater disadvantage and they need to be especially prepared so that they are fit enough to last the distance.

I have always felt that captive breds need not be at all inferior to the wild caughts.  Actually, I always felt that with proper selective breeding, care and training, the captive breds can far exceed the wild-caughts in every department, including song, structure, beauty, length of tails, stamina and courage.  This is now proving to be the case.

Future competitions
Michael and me entered our captive breds in the last 3 competitions to test their character, song and stamina in competition conditions and also to see if our preparations for the competition are correct.  The fact that our birds did well is encouraging.

As suspected, Apache is starting to molt and he will be transferred to an outdoor aviary.  He should be ready for competition around August this year if we do not breed him.  We may be tempted to do so, though, as his offspring have good song and exceptional courage. We have not decided if we will breed Sky Hawk or still enter him for future competitions.

We have other birds that we could try out for competition.  Amongst them is my favourite shama, Pretty Boy, who completed his annual molt recently.  His primary tails are about 15".  We would also like to give our other shamas a chance at competition, including 2 of Apache's other sons.
However, we have not made up our minds to compete on a regular basis.  The breeding season has started and, as always, our desire to breed better birds may override our wish to test our birds in competitions.


  1. Hi Mr David,

    Thanks for the updates !


  2. Dear David,

    Its good to know that you have proven those so call expert wrong again.

    As a matter of fact there is no different in the quality of home bred shama if proper selective breeding and training are done. I agree that many so call expert in the FORUMs are not experienced enough to even give comments and advise.

    Great start to 2011 for HOME BRED SHAMA


  3. Congratulations! glad you have proven without a doubt that selective captive breeding is the way to go to preserve and to fix the qualities we look for in white-rumped shama. (I suppose you are entitled to 'hau lian' a little bit...).