Thursday, April 9, 2015

Falcon's chicks

One of my favourite male shamas is Falcon. I used him as a sire for the first time last year when he produced 6 males.  His chicks varied in quality from very good to exceptional. His son, Nighthawk, which has excellent structure and exceptionally long first molt tails exceeding 13", exemplifies the beauty that can be achieved with line breeding.  Another son, Drumbeat, won a shama competition last month at the very young age of 8 months. This proves that with careful selective breeding, long-tailed captive-bred shamas do not lack the necessary courage and stamina to win competitions of the type presently held in Singapore which require the bird to sing and display over more than 2 hours.

In addition to siring progeny of exceptional quality, Falcon is also fecund and capable of producing them in numbers.  Below are photos that I recorded yesterday evening of his most recent chicks.

The first photo shows the chicks asleep.  Their arrangement might look as though I had posed them but this was exactly how they were when I took out the nest-box for the photos. I did so without disturbing the parents.

The 2 largest chicks hatched on the morning of 6 April. The next 2 chicks that are resting on the older chicks hatched on the morning of 7 April and the last chick which is using the 2 older chicks as a pillow, hatched on 8th morning. There was therefore a difference of 2 days between the hatching of the eldest and youngest chicks.

After taking the above photo, I called to the chicks and took the photo below.

When there is a number of eggs in the nest, it is necessary to ensure that all will be properly brooded over. Also, when chicks hatch on different days, there is a high risk that the youngest chick in the nest will be crushed by the older chicks if the space is cramped.  I set out below, what I do to reduce the risk.

I candled the 5 eggs on the 4th day that the female commenced to brood them. All the 5 eggs were fertile but they were somewhat cramped in the small nest cup and were not lying lengthwise as they should.  It was necessary to enlarge the nest.

I use natural broom fibres as shown in the photos and the nest-box itself is slightly larger than a nest would likely be in the forest. To enable the eggs to lie properly in the nest so that all would have an equal chance to develop, I made the cup larger by slightly pressing outwards the broom fibres along the sides of the nest cup. As my nest box is large, I can make the nest cup bigger by quite a lot.

After the first chicks hatch, I check the nest once each day in the evening.  Where necessary to accommodate the growing chicks, I enlarge the cup by pressing the sides of the nest cup outwards a little each day.  As can be seen from the photos, the cup is large, there is no over-crowding and the chicks are comfortable.

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