Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Observations on Captive Breeding by Jeffrey Low

First published December 2006

I have to admit that in the past, I had been a little bias as far as captive bred shamas are concerned. I had always thought that they will be lacking in certain character as well as quality in songs and display, that can only be found in the wild ones. Perhaps those captive bred ones I had seen before are not good representatives of what good captive bred shamas are like. My past thinking could have also been partly due to the fact that wild chicks when acquired too young before they had past the stage of storing sounds and songs from the wild, can never measure up to wild chicks that are acquired after this formative period.

My thinking has changed to some extend since seeing David's birds. To breed for the desired physical characteristics, to me is already not an easy thing to do. I had been into selective breeding of other animals and I know for a fact that it takes more than just resources and time to achieve this. To me, what is most admirable is that his birds are not just physically beautiful but they are also not lacking in the other aspects. In his mind, I would think that he has a very clear picture of what the most desirable shama should be like when he started breeding and I respect the man for his dedication towards achieving this.

Comment by David De Souza
Hi Jeff,

I am sure you know this but it may be useful to briefly set out a little of the background on breeding. Everything that man has achieved with regard to animal husbandry has only been because of selective breeding. Our many breeds of dogs have only been brought about because man saw the uses that the dog could be put to and bred for the qualities that were desired. Of course, it takes time to get the type that we want and then to continue breeding until we breed true.

Where man has persisted in his quest he has always succeeded. For instance, nowadays, the wild canary is no longer caught because the domesticated canary sings much better. Through a basic knowledge of genetics, it is possible with much patience to eventually achieve our goal.

When I and others started breeding shamas in 1987, we were just trying to get shamas with long tails. To breed birds with long tails, you look for parents with that characteristic. Long tails is a recessive trait, and it takes time to fix it. Luckily, I acquired Godfather in 2001. He was not only able to pass on his long tails to his progeny and they to their progeny, but many of them also have his character and display.

There is no such thing as the perfect bird but there is satisfaction in trying. We determine the trait that we want and then we selectively mate the birds and their offspring until the characteristic that we want is fixed and we have a bloodline. With regard to trying, take for instance, Godfather̢۪s grandson, Gifted. As you can see from his photos, he has beautiful long tails and a good voice. He is quite a large bird and he does not display much apart from wagging his tails. His son Icon is like him. However, this year, I mated him to an untried female and got a nest of three males and a female who were smaller than him. In Fact, they were all of medium size and exactly the type that I want. They are also much more agile and from the length of their taimong tails I expect they will have long adult tails. I intend to breed Gifted to the same female and to mate his offspring to selected females and so hope eventually to breed exactly the type that I want.

Warm regards,


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