Sunday, October 5, 2008

Beginners - Shama Dying

Post by David de Souza on Thu Dec 21, 2006 9:24 am
Below are recent correspondence between a new shama owner and I. I often get letters like this and I am always happy to help. The information below is provided to help us learn from mistakes.




Hello Mr de Souza,

I came across your website and after reading, viewing the birds and listening to their songs two months ago, I am simply swept off my feet and told myself I have to buy one and keep it. I finally got myself one bird two days ago (Tuesday) and the bird shop owner at -------- told me that it was from his friend who is migrating and hence it is not a wild-caught bird. Being a newbie, can you help answer my doubts?

1. When I asked him for the shama's age, he told me it has moulted twice so far. Does it mean it is approximately 2 years old?

2. The bird is pretty tame, and I started to let it bathe yesterday and this afternoon. Is it still necessary to half cover the cage?

3. Food. I was told to feed it with mealworms only twice a day, cut up and put with the pellet food. Is there a problem if I were to feed it with crickets, grasshoppers or centipedes at this stage?

4. Where can I get Vydex's vitamin B? Can those meant for human consumption be used instead?



Dear J.

If the shama has had only 2 moults since it hatched then it will be between 1 1/2 to 2 years old. Even if the bird is tame I usually cover half the cage to give it the sense that it is not exposed.

My website and the Malaysian forum (whose address is provided on the
first page of my website) provides a great deal of information on
feeding. A variety of live food should be offered to the shama.

You will have to import Vydex. The address is on the above websites.
Human vitamins may be given. The information is also on the websites.



Hi again Mr de Souza,

Thought I would be lucky in my keeping of the shama bird.

Knew something wasn't right since Saturday when the bird was so tame that it didn't even move from its perch when I was clearing the cups. Besides, I have not heard more than thrice the 'tek tek' sound, let alone the sub-song for the entire week. All this while, I kept the cage half-covered. On Sunday night, the bird just rested on the base of the cage instead of the perch and when I woke up to check on the bird at 6+am on Monday, the legs had stiffened and died.


Dear J.

I am sorry that your bird passed away. From the information provided I would guess that your shama had suffered epileptic fits in consequence of a vitamin B deficiency. I have written alot about this on my website and in the Malaysian Forum. When a bird is deficient in vitamin B, its motor neural ability is affected and it may appear tame as it does not react readily to stressful situations. It is difficult for a person such as yourself to know what may be wrong with a bird as you would not have had experience of problems. Like anything else, keeping birds healthy and happy is a learning process and I have tried to help by providing information that I myself have learnt the hard way in the hope that it will assist others so that they will have the tools to avoid the mistakes that I have made.



Note: There may be other causes such as change in the dry food that the bird is not used to eating etc. The most likely cause is a lack of vitamin B but further consideration could show that some other reason is the cause.

Postby David de Souza on Fri Dec 29, 2006 12:14 pm
28th December 2006

Hello Mr de Souza,

Yah. I was really sad that the bird died when I took over, due to inexperience.
I have bought another one but from another bird shop (opposite Serangoon stadium). I chose it out of 9 birds there for these reasons: most active, loud and non-monotonous singing and dared to sing when I was only 2 m away). The owner told me it was a young bird from Malaysia (less than a year old and showed me its pinkish legs). I was told that this bird was moulting as many tail feathers have dropped off, leaving only 5--3 white ones, one broken black and a white with black tail... I remember the owner telling me that the bird has so far been fed chicken pellets, it made sense-poor nutrition. He gave me half a packet of chicken pellets and told me to mix with 3 Coins and give it to the bird to eat before weaning the bird totally from chicken pellets so that the change of bird food won't be too sudden.

Nutrition wise, I have been feeding the shama with the above mixture, 4 crickets and 1 superworm a day plus the vitamins (human type, crushed and smeared with crickets). It has been slightly more than a week and so far, the bird seems to be in good health. So far, when I checked it early in the morning at 6+, the bird was on the perch and not resting on the base of the cage. On days when there were no rain, I let it bathed and put the cage in my room and let it dry before covering the cage about an hour later. I dare not hang the cage in the balcony as two of my green finches suffered decapitation from sparrow-hawks.

I am very thrilled by the fact that it has been singing loudly everyday, has lots of sub-songs, especially in the afternoons and very active in the cage. Even my family members, who have been pretty anti about pet birds, were muted when they heard its singing.

Once again, I have a few questions which I hope you can help me.
1. Have just bought centipedes from an aquarium. How should I feed the shama with it, as in whole or cut up? Can I feed it with one centipede everyday (all are 4 inches long)?

2. So far, the black tail has dropped on its own, plus a tiny feather from its body. How long more will the bird then go into full moulting?

3. Checked the droppings daily. It is not only white or transparent patch with black dot, but also large amount of droppings. Does this mean the bird is still not having a balanced diet? Will this still be observed once the chicken pellets are no longer fed to the shama?


Reply 29th December 2006

Hi ___,

For a 4" long centipede, I would cut it into 2 or more pieces.

When the bird goes into full molt after some of the tails drop will depend on the reasons why they dropped. Usually the face, head and body feathers will drop and the new feathers will regrow before the tails drop. It could be that the tails have dropped because the bird was stressed. In such case, they might not regrow until the next molt.

The droppings are large because chicken pellets are not really suitable for the shama. I think I have mentioned this before on the Malaysian Forum.