Tuesday, June 21, 2011


In my post of 12 May 2011, I mentioned that I had acquired a wild-caught shama through the kindness of my friend William and the owner.

When I first saw the shama (“Zee”), he seemed a desirable acquisition,  There was no hint that he was likely to be spectacular but I was glad to have him anyway.  He had neat curved tails of about 10”, good posture and he sang a little.  It is so difficult nowadays to find a wild-caught shama with at least 10” tails. In considering Zee’s performance, I took into consideration that he was about to molt and not performing at his best.

When I returned home, I placed him in a cages instead of directly into an outdoor aviary.  This was to make sure that he was eating well.  After several days, I transferred him to an outdoor aviary to molt.  During the time he was in a cage, he did not exhibit signs of potential greatness.

He had a good molt.  By this, I mean that his old feathers were replaced with glossy new feathers and his form rose and continued to rise as his molt approached its end.

When he was in good form after the molt, I introduced a female into his aviary.  They took to each other and she built a nest.  I am sure she laid but there were no eggs when I inspected the nest sometime after she should have sat but did not.  One of the pair or both must have destroyed or eaten the eggs.  This was not surprising as the breeding birds are constantly disturbed by the songs of the other birds in my garden.

I decided to transfer the pair to the only indoor aviary that I have.  They liked this aviary but the disadvantage to me was that I had to keep all my other shamas away from them.  This meant that I could not even have a shama in the nearby porch as Zee would get very excited and it was not possible for me to always ensure that Zee was not disturbed.  

Again, the pair had eggs and again there was none when I inspected the nest.  On the morning of Saturday, 18th June, I decided not to breed Zee for the time being and the pair were separated.  Zee was transferred to a cage and it was covered to let him rest.  Part of the reason for not continuing to use the indoor aviary for breeding was that I missed the free use of it to provide exercise for the 1 or 2 caged birds that I keep indoors..

In the evening of the 18th itself, Jeffrey, Alan and I were to meet Dr. Sun at his home.  It was just a gathering to while away the time talking about birds and such.  I wanted to bring along a shama to encourage Dr. Sun’s birds to perform. I had a choice between Zee and Apache as there was space for only 1 bird in the car.  I took Zee though I did not expect much from him.  This was the first time I was taking him for an outing.  He had been in an aviary and I had never seen him perform in a cage.  Furthermore, birds that are separated from their mates seldom do very well at gatherings.

Zee had not been taken for car rides and there was a likelihood that he might be upset by the journey and flutter about the cage but he was quiet in the car. As we walked towards Dr. Sun’s home from our parked car, we could hear his many shamas singing.  At his home, I removed the cage cover and hung the cage.  We were all surprised by how Zee did.

A bird that seldom travels is likely to be stressed by the journey in a vehicle.  The stress can be seen from the open beak which will usually close after the ride when the bird has had time to calm down and had 1 or 2 sips of water. Birds that are stressed do not perform well. Moreover, shamas are territorial and when entering unfamiliar territory they tend to be intimidated by the resident shamas. Also, as I have mentioned, Zee was a breeder.

Zee exhibited no signs of stress from the journey.  Neither did the other shamas cow him.  Immediately the cage cover was removed, he straightened and opened his beak as wide as a main gate (I exaggerate a little) and belted out his songs in a variety of long musical notes.

The wide-open beak during song indicates aggressiveness and fearlessness.  Very few shamas have such a strong character that they will open wide their beaks in song when challenged outside their territory.  Usually, the song and display is a fraction of what it is at home.  The effect of an aggressive shama in full song tends to intimidate the shamas around him.  This is a great advantage in a song competition.

I was happy with Zee’s song and character but these alone did not make him a “complete” shama.  There needs to be a captivating display.  Here again, Zee did not disappoint.  He would “run” along the perch with an upright and dominating posture and also “play” the cage all the time singing.  Some birds display and some birds sing.  Zee did both. When landing on the perch, he would lift his tails and fan them out in almost slow motion.  Fanning of the tails is always an attractive feature.  It is usually done rapidly but it is even more eye-catching when done in slow motion.

My sifu, Jeffrey, commented that Zee is the best shama he has seen this year.  I suppose this is a compliment but I know that Jeff has seen more motorcycles than shamas recently.

We were at Dr. Sun’s home for about 1½ hours and Zee performed during this time.  I was proud of him and decided to give him a name.  I named him "Zee". He was formerly referred to only as “the bird that I got from William’s friend”.

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