Monday, February 3, 2014

My Samyong

Regular visitors to this site will know that my consistent interest over the years has been the White-rumped shama. I have kept other species of songbirds from time to time, including the Roller and Waterslager canaries, canary crosses, Mockingbirds, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Oriental White-eye, Green-leaf Bird, Chestnut-capped Thrush, Orange-headed Ground Thrush, Skylark, Drongoes, Cardinals, Nightingales, White-crowned Robin Chat, and others.  All of these species, except for the Skylark, are no longer with me. I eventually sold or gave them away as I did not find their song to be sufficiently interesting as compared to the shama.  I will probably also part with the Skylark in due course.

In 2012 I acquired 3 Tieu Mi (Spot-throated Babbler). After listening to their songs when in top form, I also parted with them one by one. The last TM was given away in May 2013 when I got 2 Bare-throated Whistlers.  In Indonesia they are known as Samyong.

I was really interested in the Samyong after I came across text that described them as “Flores Nightingales” and the description of their song as loud and varied. The comparison to the Nightingale especially piqued my interest. By the way, Flores is one of the islands in the Lesser Sunda Straits where the species is endemic.

In May of last year when I had the opportunity to get Samyongs, I searched the videos on YouTube to look for videos on their song and display.  My search at the time did not turn up many videos of the Samyong.  However, one video that I came across fascinated me.  When I wrote about the species on this blog I provided a link to it.

The other few videos that I came across were not as interesting. The songs incorporated sounds of cat mewing, cocks crowing and dogs barking, or other sounds that detracted from pleasant listening. Since then, there have been many more videos of Samyongs on YouTube but not all the songs are uniformly pleasant. The best songs are those from birds in the wild with the birds in cages having songs that incorporate undesirable sounds.

I decided to get 2 Samyongs in May last year. They had been described as tame but I later found that they had been kept from the wild for only about 3 months. This is hardly sufficient time to tame them. At best they could be described as semi-tame.

They converted to dry food without difficulty and I fed them and cared for them in exactly the same way as my shamas. They had dry food during the day until evening when they were offered a bath and insects after that.

One of the birds started to sing after about 2 weeks. The other took much longer. Each song lasted only several seconds and the song of both birds was similar. This is the song that TC has described as weiye, weiye, weiye. It is pleasant sounding but repetitive. I did not hear other songs from them and I made no effort to tame them. I appreciated that the birds would likely perform much better after the molt and decided to kiv my assessment of them until they had good form.

When the Samyongs started to molt, I transferred them to outdoor aviaries. By mid December, one of the birds had completed its molt and I transferred it to a cage.  While still in the outdoor aviary, it had started to sing towards the completion of its molt. This is always a good sign as it suggests that the care during the molt has been better than adequate and that the bird’s form should continue to rise after the molt.

After the transfer of the first Samyong to the cage, he continued to sing his signature song. At home, we refer to him as Samyong 1 to distinguish him from the other, known as Samyong 2.

About a month ago, Samyong One started to have some variety in his song. Initially, its song would last only a few seconds but each passing day saw an improvement in both the variety and length of the song. Now, about a month after his transfer to a cage, the song of Samyong One can be for more than a minute before a slight pause. Each song session lasts 5 to 15 minutes and there may be 2 or 3 sessions during the day.  At other times, it may sing a few notes. Each song session starts with a call, then more calls which increase in number within minutes until the bird is in full song and, in effect, giving a solo concert.

Samyong Two was taken out of the molting aviary only about 2 weeks ago.  He shows promise.  Unlike Samyong One which I secluded because I wanted to hear his developing song, Samyong Two is kept at eye level in the walkway leading to the kitchen so that he can get used to humans.

Over the Chinese New Year holidays, I tried video recording Samyong One’s song with the camera aimed at him but he stops singing if anyone is watching him. To record his song as a video recording I had to half cover his cage so that I was blocked from his view.  To record the video, the camera was pointed to the tree outside my home or to flowering plants in my garden.

So what do I think of Samyong A’s song? Thankfully, it does not have cat mewing, cock crowing and dog barking so he was probably not kept in a village where he could hear them. What I am hearing is likely his native song.  He has picked up some songs since he came to my house.  Amongst these, are the song of the Koel and it can be heard in the videos at the end of this post.

The song consists of a series of notes strung together. Each note may be sung several times before the bird switches to another series of notes. Unlike the shama, the Samyong does not sing tunes. Whereas, the shama incorporates tunes and calls in his song, there are no tunes as such in the Samyongs' songs. They may be described as tuneful calls but not tunes or melodies.  The best comparison of the Samyong’s song is the Australian Lyrebird which is a great imitator of the sounds that it hears.  The Lyrebird is the much better imitator.

When Samyong One started to sing his concert a few weeks ago, his voice was a little rough.  In fact, I notice that many of the Samyongs in captivity have rough voices to a greater or lesser extent.  My experience with Samyong One is that the voice becomes less rough as the bird’s form improves. I expect that the songs of my Samyongs may improve as their form rises and they get used to my care.

I do not know if my interest in Samyongs will continue indefinitely.  This will probably depend on whether or not their songs continue to improve.  The videos below showcase their songs at this time.

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