Monday, November 24, 2008

Myths & Facts - Fruits and Wet Faeces

Below is a long discussion by Sam of Softbillsaviary, Jeffrey Low and Sunny. It is reproduced here to provoke thought in knowledgeable keepers about the feeding of the Oriental White Eye in captivity. This bird is also referred to in the text by its Malay name of Mata Puteh (white eye) or Puteh.

Myths & Facts - Fruits and Wet Faeces by softbillsaviary Nov 16, 2006
Puteh Food - Too Much Fruits?

I believe that most forumers would agree with the logic that as bird keepers or even if you are keeping other animals (dogs, cats, fish etc) you would try to provide the animal with food which is its natural diet. Of course now we have dog biscuits for dogs, cat food for cats and so on. But even such commercial preparations always advertise themselves that the ingredients are very close to natural food.

The same applies to birds. Why do people take the trouble to catch grasshoppers or pay for crickets which are troublesome noisy insects, to feed their birds? Again it’s simply that we wish to feed our birds with the closest substitute to their natural diet.

Any experienced birdwatcher will tell you that the Mata Puteh's natural diet consists mainly of four things: nectar, fruits, grubs (and small caterpillars) and small insects (including small spiders).

Most of us will feed our Putehs with commercial pellets and supplement it with fresh fruits. The question is whether we are giving the Puteh too much fruits. The answer is simply: No.

An animal such as a bird (or any other animal except Carp) eats only what is necessary and never overeats. So you may stick a whole apple or orange inside the cage, but the Puteh will not gorge itself to death, instead it will peck only a small portion of it. The only harm is that it’s a waste to put an entire orange or apple in the cage. If anyone tells you that his Mata Puteh ate an entire apple in one day - its either he is joking or he is delusional.

What does it mean if my Puteh has watery faeces?

If you, the bird keeper, has watery (or soft) faeces, then there is cause for worry; but a Puteh's faeces is expected to be watery since its natural diet consists largely of liquid & soft food - nectar and fruits. If your Puteh's faeces is hard - you should be worried.

Remember this: the Puteh's diet, apart from nectar and fruits, also comprises of small juicy insects and grubs; all of which are soft food. Squash a caterpillar and you will agree with me.

So how did this 'fact' about too much fruits come about? The old timers tend to equate their pet birds' faeces with the human variety - and that is incorrect.

If you have ever kept a finch which is a pure seed eater and supplemented its food with some green leafy vegetable, you would immediately notice two things – first, the finch's faeces is not watery and the second is the perch sticks are sticky. The faeces are not watery because the seeds provide lots of roughage. The perches are sticky because some of the seeds are high in carbohydrates.

If you feed the Puteh with water-chestnut, its faeces will be firm/dry as noted by Sunny. I would like to add that the bird's faeces are firm/dry is simply due to the fact that water-chestnut is fibrous. Next time when you eat water-chestnuts, take time to note how it feels when you keep chewing on it for a full minute or more - the water-chestnut mash still feels solid. Compare it to say a bite of apple or papaya - it would be all mushy gooey in less than a minute. Naturally when the bird is fed with water-chestnut, you can expect with 100% certainty that its droppings will be 'dry' or firm.

(Note about papayas: The papaya fruit has laxative qualities. The most active laxative part of the fruit is the white pimply surface in the center where the seeds are found. So naturally, you will notice an increase in defecation when you feed papayas to your Puteh.)

In the case of oranges you will actually see the orange rind in the faeces, whereas the water-chestnut fibre is more fine and hence not quite so obvious. But why is the faeces 'dry' in the case of water-chestnut and wet in the case of oranges? The answer is simply that oranges have a higher liquid content.

What about too much oranges and the Puteh's faeces is yellowish wet. Wet, as I said before, is due to the high water content of the orange fruit. The colouring is due to the orange itself. The bird's digestive system will only absorb the vitamins, minerals, the fructose (sugar) and pass out the rest. The same applies to apples and papayas. In the case of apples the faeces will be brownish wet. The brown colour is due to natural discolouration of a cut apple exposed to air and in this case the apple has in fact been through an added process in the bird's digestive system which of course will be passed out brown in colour.

Too much fruits will lower the bird's 'api' (“fire” or “form”) is another common belief. Not true. How could that be when in its natural environment the Puteh is in constant search for fruits and nectar, its natural diet?

In fact now is the Mata Puteh's high season. The rains have started. Take a Saturday off on your own and observe them in the wild. The insects are out in full force, especially after the rain stops. The Mata Putehs will have a feast. The protein and calcium supplement from the insects helps them to prepare for breeding and to feed their hatchlings.

Another common belief is feeding the Puteh with too much insects, mealworms and grubs is bad. Maybe true. Insects and other such stuff are the Puteh's source of protein and calcium. Too much protein may cause some problems for the bird. Its tiny liver will not be able to cope. But as I said earlier, the Puteh eats only what is necessary, so is there any worry that it might over-eat insects and such? Yes, especially when you do not provide it with enough fruits, pellets, and nectar, then the Puteh has no choice but to eat more of the insects you give it.

So why is it that the Puteh's basic diet is nectar and fruits?

If you have kept or are keeping different species of birds and if you have observed birds in the wild, you will note two basic differences in the behaviour of birds. Some birds are more active and some are less active.

(Group A) Examples of Active birds: Mata Putehs, Jambuls (and other bulbuls), finches, leaf birds
(GroupB) Examples of less Active birds: Owls, Eagles, Merboks, Tekukurs, Shrikes

The birds in group A are more active and they expend their energy quicker. They need high energy food such as nectar/pollen and fruits (which has lots of fructose). The finches, say a Grey finch, does not eat fruits (some do, if you condition them) but the finch eats far more seeds than a Merbok would in terms of their body weight ratio.

The birds in Group B are less active. Have you ever seen an owl jumping here and there or flying all over the place? Merboks are only active when they are looking for seeds, otherwise they will be happy to perch on their favourite branch and relax. It’s the same with the tekukur. Eagles and shrikes are the same. But someone did ask me during a birding a trip why I said that the eagle is less active than a bulbul when it is common to see eagles soaring around in the sky?

Yes, you do see eagles soaring in the sky, but they don't actually flap their wings constantly to keep flying, do they? No. They actually rely on the warm thermal air which rises up and they 'ride' or glide on the thermal. Minimal energy expended. The only effort required is when they launch themselves off a tall tree or cliff, flap their wings for a short while and catch the thermal. Then they will simply glide or ride the rising warm air.

The owl sits patiently on a perch and watches for its prey. The only time it flies is to glide down silently to pounce on the rodent and fly back to its nest or perch.

The same can be said of herons or bitterns. They stay still most of the time in the swamp and move to strike only when it spots a fish or when it wants to walk over to another place. Not much energy used.

On the other hand, the Group A birds never stay still in one spot. Even when in a cage, the Puteh and the bulbul will jump and down from one stick to another. In the wild, they are even more active. Most times you can't even get your camera up in time to aim, focus and shoot, unless it is feeding. Of course now with a digital camera, you simply don't worry about film wastage and just tembak, you are bound to get a good shot.

So, do you now realize that the birds in Group A are mostly frugivores-insectivores and the birds in Group B are carnivorous? That’s why, feeding your Puteh with fruits and nectar is never bad for its health - in fact its good.

In some major fruit producing countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and in some African countries, the Mata Putehs are treated as pests as the birds spoil quite alot of the fruits in the orchards. Persimmons are an all time favourite.

Thus in the wild the Puteh's diet is naturally more nectar and fruits and less of the insects and such stuff. Nectar and fruits are widely available and the fruits and flowers don't jump, fly away like the insects or camouflage itself like the caterpillars. So the basic diet of a Puteh is fruits and nectar. Insects and grubs are supplements, which are necessary but need to be controlled.

If your merboks faeces are wet there are only two reasons - diarrhoea and the other is the bird is drinking lots of water. The latter is harmless. But you might need to treat the former. Treatment - crush (better still, to blend) some tender jambu leaves, roll it into tiny balls and force feed one or two balls to the merbok. Second give it black Chinese tea.

Merboks’ faeces should not be wet, they are bascially seed eaters and nothing else.

However if your Puteh's faeces are dry (dry as in the case of merboks), then your Puteh has a problem. Its either not having enough fruits or its not drinking enough water. Take some time to observe your Puteh when it eats the pellets - invariably, it will sip some water after eating the pellet. Liquid - whether water or nectar or fruit juice (from the fruits its eats) is a very important part of its diet. So do expect watery droppings or at minimum, soft droppings from your Puteh.

I feed my Putehs and Jambul with nectar, slices of fruits and pellets. Fruits are apples, oranges and papayas. Their droppings are mostly wet.

They are active all the time. Sing their middle tones, buka in the morning, late afternoon, and when it rains (or when I shower). No problem. The only problem is - sometimes they sing so sweetly - I am reluctant to release them back into the aviary to join the other putehs.

Thanks for reading. Constructive comments and correction of any misrepresentation of facts are welcome.


by jeffreylow on Fri Nov 17, 2006 2:01 am
Hi Sam, that is a very good write up with all the facts and explanations. As another puteh lover, I would certainly like to take the discussion a little further with you and hopefully will bring in more opinions and inputs from others into this section of the forum.

In the context of food for puteh in captivity, there is no doubt at all that by providing it with as close a diet as that it has been eating in the wild, one will end up with a healthy bird. However, that would be the best one could achieve, i.e. having a puteh as healthy as the ones in the wild. The tradition of song bird rearing in the east goes back a very long way. Unlike our western counterparts, the goals are a little different. The westerners enjoy seeing birds in captivity living in a way as close to that of their wild cousins as possible and hence they will try to simulate conditions in captivity as such, like providing large aviaries decorated with materials of the natural habitat of the species and food that is as natural as possible. In the east, birds are kept in small cages, for the ease of bringing them out to pit their singing skills and form with others. Here is where birds like the puteh is seen in conditions that far exceed those in the wild. The form (api) and energy level all year round of a top class competitor is not just merely that of a healthy wild bird.

The oriental methods of bringing out such form and competitiveness in our putehs lacks not in results but in proper documentations and scientific explanations. Food is one very important aspect of this traditional method of keeping birds. Not only are the types of food important but also the proportions of each type of food in the total combination, i.e. the amount of dry food, the fresh fruits and live food taken by the bird on a daily basis. Here is where I would like to point out that the old timers judging the bird by its droppings is not completely a misconception or myth. It is through the droppings that a old timer expert can tell the condition of the bird and whether it is been fed correctly (i.e. according to the eastern method).

My attempt to explain all these may not be good enough to justify why the old timers think that if the putehs droppings are too watery, the bird is not in tip top condition but if you would go to a competition ground and look at the droppings of the top winning birds, it might just convince you so. Also, allow me to quote a few things you have mentioned and try to explain the other school of thinking.

Quote: I believe that most forumers would agree with the logic that as bird keepers or even if you are keeping other animals (dogs, cats, fish etc) you would try to provide the animal with food which is its natural diet.

Explanation: The oriental method of keeping softbill songbirds is to provide, as part of its diet, a dry staple that had over time proven to be a very reliable source of sustaining the form and energy level of a competitive bird. The ingredients that goes into such a dry staple is anything but close to the natural diet of the wild birds. It would be difficult for me to provide you with a detailed breakdown in nutrient values of these dry staples or any scientific explanations (as in many other things oriental) but just compare the conditions of putehs fed on this type of food as opposed to those fed on nicely packaged imported western brands of softbill food ( formulated close to the natural diet of the wild bird) and you will see what I meant. Of course, the other parts of the diet will consist of fruits and insects too.

Quote: An animal such as a bird (or any other animal except Carp) eats only what is necessary and never overeats. So you may stick a whole apple or orange inside the cage, but the Puteh will not gorge itself to death, instead it will peck only a small portion of it.

Explanation: It is true that the puteh will not gorge itself to death on the fruits, but if it likes it better than the other food that is also provided (e.g. dry food and insects), it will eat more of the fruit and tend to eat less of the others. Hence it goes against the oriental method of giving the right proportion of each type of food to the bird ( I am beginning to see some scientific logic here in providing variety for a better balanced diet). Here is where the droppings will become more watery than would be preferred because it had not been eating in the right proportions. The owners of competition birds will only provide a small slice of fruit each day and hence the droppings are not so watery. I am not disputing the fact that it is ok to have loose droppings but merely explaining why some think it is better to have the right consistency in the droppings.

Quote: So how did this 'fact' about too much fruits come about? The old timers tend to equate their pet birds' faeces with the human variety - and that is incorrect

Explanation: The old timers do not equate birds faeces with that of human as you have perceived but they actually analyse it to come to the conclusion as to whether the bird is fed correctly (according to the proven method they believe in) and if it is in good form.

Quote: If you, the birdkeeper, has watery (or soft) faeces, then there is cause for worry; but a Puteh's faeces is expected to be watery since its natural diet consist largely of liquid & soft food - nectar and fruits. If your Puteh's faeces is hard - you should be worried.

Explanation: It is true that there is no cause for alarm if the birds droppings are watery because of the fruits and food with high liquid content but if the method of keeping the birds (the top competition birds) is to provide them with a combination of diets that result in firmer stools, there is likewise nothing to worry about (I don't see any of the owners of competition winning birds being worried about the firmer stools of their birds).

As mentioned earlier, the traditional method of feeding putehs may lack logical scientific explanations but over the long period of time have proven to achieve what we see in the competition grounds and chai places - of birds in tip top condition and form. Due to the fact that the chinese way of keeping softbill songbirds are not well documented and explained, some of us may perceive certain practices as "myths or misconceptions". Certainly, food is not the only thing that goes into achieving the final goal. It is only part of the whole, proven traditional method which also includes training.

Best regards,
Jeffrey Low.

by softbillsaviary on Fri Nov 17, 2006 11:17 pm
Dear Brudder Jeffrey Low and all Puteh brudders

Thank you for taking this topic further. Its’ really wonderful and refreshing to read an erudite response from a fellow Puteh brudder. It was getting rather quiet.

Before I reply to Jeffery's post, I would like to remind all brudders that this is a forum for healthy discussion and not for mudslinging. So, if I inadvertently hurt anyone's sensitivities with my writing, please forgive me. It might be due to my paucity in the English language, and never an intention to hurt.

First of all, I would like to reiterate very clearly that I am not in this hobby to breed nor to train my Putehs or any bird to be a champion. Hence some of the suggestions made by me may or may not work well for hobbyists who aim to be in the song bird competition. I have stated this many times in my past postings.

Most of the suggestions made in my earlier postings are meant for anyone who wished to maintain his Puteh in good health and hence in good form. This will ensure that your Puteh will be in form but by no means will you be guaranteed a "Champion bird' or even a second and third placing.

I do agree with Jeffery's point about a balanced diet and in fact as he had pointed out, its scientific. I don't think I mentioned that anyone should feed his Puteh purely on a diet of fruits and nectar. On the contrary I did mention that one should provide supplementary food, such as insects and grubs as these provide the Putehs with the required protein and calcium.

How the balance is to be maintained is anyone's guess. Most of the old timers who were willing to share said:

1) Fruits daily, but reduce it when you notice the Puteh's droppings to be watery

2) Main diet should still be dry pellets as it is multi-nutritional.

3) Insects: preferably large grasshoppers (about 1.5 to 2inches), split it open for the Puteh to get at the innards. Some said the grasshoppers should be brown ones, some said it really does not matter. Insects to be fed at least once or twice a week and not more.

Really, I don't see the difference with what I have written about the general dietary habits of Putehs.

Perhaps the point of contention is being able to tell the health of the Puteh from the consistency of its faeces.

That brings us around to the same moot point about whether the diet is suitable for a competition bird or for a healthy bird.

My essay was not about diet for competition songbirds/Puteh. Its about the general health and well-being of the bird.

Yin Yang of Puteh Diet

The suggestion of a balanced diet as advocated by the old timers is actually based on the balance of the Yin and Yang of a Puteh's (or any animal for that matter) well-being.

Yin Yang is in fact an application which is suitable for a human being and not quite for an animal. There is no documented evidence of any Chinese medical study on the Yin Yang of a bird's health, much less of any other animal.

Instead what we do have is the application of the balance of Yin and Yang per se.

Thus, if we apply this to a bird, how would we know whether the bird's health is balanced? The old timers then conclude the following:

1) Is the bird lively and singing - if yes, its ok.
2) Are the faeces wet or firm? - If wet, there is too much Yin, if dry then there is too much Yang
3) If dry, is the bird still singing and does it appear to be hyperactive? If yes, it confirms that it is much too heaty and hence the bird might 'burn out' before the competition.
4) If wet, is the bird still singing but appear to be less lively? If yes, it confirms that its much too cool and might not perform at its peak when its competition time.
5) Thus the bird keeper is then exhorted to try and balance the diet such that it results in firm faeces and not wet or dry.

Consequently you would then note that the 'good' performers (not necessarily only the winners) in a competition will have firm faeces. Correct? Yes, indeed.

Then ask yourself this question, has any old timer bothered with the possibility that the Yin Yang of the Puteh is quite different from that of a human. In the case of a Puteh or any bird, the human equivalent of Yin Yang cannot be applied. In its natural state, the Puteh is more Yin than Yang. That is mother nature. We cannot say that it is wrong. Its just that way.

The same can be said of Eagles or Owls or Herons, all of which are Yang birds. Does that mean they are unhealthy? Hey, you can't even get an Eagle to eat lettuce! Similarly you cannot force a Puteh to eat meat.

The balance of Yin Yang for other living beings are just not the same as for us, humans. This is in fact supported by Western science. Humans need a fine balance of Yin Yang - we are after all omnivores (meat and non-meat eaters). A dog is a Yang animal - it is a carnivore. A cow is a Yin animal - its a herbivore.

So what then is a Puteh, is it Yin or Yang? Answer: It is more Yin than Yang, judging by its natural diet.

If you adhere to its natural diet regime, you will have a normal, healthy and happy Puteh.

However, if you wish to bring it to competition 'standard', you would need to tweak its Yin Yang by offering it less Yin food. It will heat or fire up the little fellow - hence we have the saying 'api' or in Cantonese "Foh". (But you can't tweak too much Yang, or else it will burn out.)

What happens then of course, would be a change in the consistency of its faeces - it becomes less wet and more firm ! Then what does that look like ? It looks exactly like human faeces - firm but not wet nor hard and dry; as in the case of a healthy human.

Thus, as I said the old timers tend to equate the Puteh faeces to the human. If it is firm, the Puteh is in excellent health and has 'api'. Yes, not just 'api', it has MORE 'api' than a normal healthy Puteh.

What remains is the moral question - are you doing your Puteh justice by tweaking its Yin Yang balance such that you get what YOU want and not what the PUTEH needs.

Its’ really a matter of personal preference, but I wish to add that when we keep a bird, its life is in our hands. And the truth of it, is that we never own the bird. If we do own it, try opening the cage - see what happens - the little fella will scoot off soonest possible. I believe then we should try our best to take care of it by applying the natural approach as opposed to tweaking nature to suit us.

I am not an advocate of Western values but neither would I discard their ideas especially if they are consistent with our Oriental values; and in this case it happens to concur - the balance of the Puteh's diet should be according to its particular nature of Yin Yang and not according to ours, unless you wish to 'fire up' the little fellow for competition sake.

In actual fact, if you follow the natural dietary regime, you will still have a Puteh which is in top form, but not in the same category as a competition Puteh 'api'.

Chinese/Oriental Birdkeeping

Bird keeping was never intended to be competitive when it first began back in mainland China. It was very much a past time enjoyed by the aristocrats and upper crust of Chinese society. Songbird competition never existed till much later when bird keeping associations were formed in Guangzhou and Hong Kong in the 1920s or 1930s - cannot remember now.

Prior to that, it was an art and very much an excuse for gathering in the teahouse to while away the time, discussing, admiring the birds, their songs and more importantly, the craftsmanship of the cages and its accessories.

Now, sadly that is forgotten and most old timers now are more concerned about their birds being a winner or being a first among equals.

In my own view, which not many would care to agree, that is not quite the objective of birdkeeping. When I used to keep canaries, I did not bother to keep such varieties as the Gloucester, Scots etc. These are grosteque genetic deformities and does not represent the true canary. It may be considered a fine and fair sport by the Westerners, but I certainly don't subscribe to that sort of thinking.

Although I may wish to advocate a return to the true art of bird keeping, its much too late for that. Now, the hobby has been seriously tainted by money viz. a winning Puteh/Jambul/Merbok etc commands a high value.

What I can do is to provide basic advice to Puteh owners whose objective is to simply enjoy the company of the Puteh for its lively nature, its song and if affordable - the craftsmanship of a beautiful cage. And sadly I cannot afford a master-craftsman's bird cage.

by Sunny on Sat Nov 18, 2006 2:12 am
Thank you Sam and Jeffery for sharing your thoughts on the subject of diet for the white-eyes. Such sharing of experiences/ thoughts/ideas are healthy exchanges and enriching for all of us in the forum.

My first puteh was when I was a teenager when there were flocks of them in a village in Johore, where I spend my teenage years . I have taken up puteh keeping again in the last 4 years and at one stage was keeping an insane number of 30 birds. I regained my sanity last year and presently I am keeping 12 of them.

Please bear with me while I rattle off my observations and try to translate my thoughts into my rather poor English.

In the last 30 years with the wide spread clearing and conversion of rubber plantation into oil palm estate, it has altered our little friend's habitat . It was common then to see a flock of 15-20 birds foraging amongst the rubber tree for insects, now you can only witness such sight in the coastal mangrove swamp, if you are lucky !

With their habitat altered, most putehs are now concentrated at the mangroves areas and as Sam has pointed out , even in fringes of town. You might ask why mangrove and fringes of town and not the primary forest? From my many trips in the observation of their feeding habit in these areas, I believe it is for the insects and nectar as these are now not available in the oil palm estate.

The white-eye's foods sources in the wild are varied, it consist of insects , fruits , nectar of some of the flowering tree, and caterpillars , the availability and abundance of these are seasonal . In most time they are observed to be foraging between leaves and branches looking for insects and sip nectar if there are flowering tree bloom, and on an opportunity basis ripen fruits, if they are not already taken by other bird species.

On many occasions in the last 2 years I have also observed the putehs fringing oil palm estate in Johore eating ripened oil palm fruits,and some of these birds could not survive the transition to home made food unless oil palm is initially added to the concoction .

In fact they are drawn to most things that are sweet.....convince yourself by offering your puteh a slice of green sour apple and see whether they like it. In Thailand I have seen villagers keeping their Puteh with just papaya and some left over rice from last nite's dinner!

These observations convinced me that these little bird are very hardy and adaptable!! This adaptability is likewise demonstrated by them readily taking apple and orange which are temperate region fruits and not cultivated in the region.

The current practice of feeding them with prepared commercial pellets has evolved over the years through empirical trial and errors by the puteh keepers before us. I remember my first puteh was fed with a mixture of green pea/sugar powder as told by the village bird keeping wise men. I remembered vividly having to roast the green pea and grind them using a bottle with raw sugar added for sweetness to entice them to eat . This was supplemented with an occasional slice of papaya, a caterpillar or two from the hibiscus bush. I could not even afford to eat apple myself so that poor guy had to make do with what is cheap and readily available. That little fellow lasted perhaps 5 years and I guess he was happy nevertheless with all the "ill treatments", and gave me hours of enjoyment with his song, in a crude chicken-coop wire-mess cage I fashioned myself.

Over the years green pea has established itself as the tried and tested ingredient in white-eye feed. Taking a closer look at its nutritional figures one would realize that the oldtimers empirical approach in fact had narrowed down a fairly nutritious substitute for the bird.

Nutritional value per 100 g of Raw Green Pea

Energy 340 kcal 1430 kJ

Sugars 8 g

Dietary fibre 26 g

Carbohydrates 60 g

Fat 1 g

Protein 25 g

Thiamin (Vit. B1) 0.7 mg

Pantothenic acid (B5) 1.7 mg

Folate (Vit. B9) 274 μg

Iron 4 mg

The main ingredients of green pea , eggs and sugar provides a fairly balance intake of both fiber, carbohydrate , protein ,fat, calories and some vitamins and trace elements for a caged puteh. Who said so? Not me, but a little white-eye I have personally known that was kept by a Singaporean friend that lived to the ripe old age of 14.

2 of the putehs with me now are at least 7 years in age, they were pass-me-down from a friend that gave up the hobby after he'd kept them for 3 years , they have been with me for 4 years and god knows how old they were when captured! The pellet and fruit supplement must be right for what I wanted from the bird, they sing well. I can't tell the difference in their state of health as compare to those that are being in captivity of around 2-3 years . I hope a 2 year old bird I have that was bred from a baby can beat the 14 years record.

In recent years some pellet food have also include the following ingredients in varying proportion to further enhance the nutritional value and trace elements. These addition ingredients might not be scientifically derived or perhaps they are and I am none the wiser. These are:

Black beans
Red beans
soya beans
dried tiny shrimps
unpolished rice

For a bird in captivity to sing well it must be healthy and happy. Hence what it is being fed and the general environment it is kept are all important factors contributing to its general well being and form.

By capturing it and rearing it in cages and substitute his food, we are in fact drastically altering its normal activity cycle and feeding habits in the wild. Food intake and activity cycle are inter-related due to the different metabolism rate and the caloric requirement between a caged bird and a bird in the wild, where it spent most of its energy and time foraging for food.

The western approach of "as close to natural food as possible " is great in principle but not really practicable. Yes, through observation we might be able to glimpse instances when the bird is feeding and know in general what food they take. But to know what percentage of insect, nectar, grubs and fruits form its daily diet in the wild is at best an educated guess. There is just too much variables to conduct such a thorough scientific study due to differing environ and seasonal availability of these food. There is also the practical aspect to such an approach in terms of putting it into practice by bird keepers..

Further as mentioned earlier we have changed the activity cycle in a caged bird. How does this relatively sedate life influence the nutritional requirement of the bird ? What nutrients should be boosted and what should be reduced? I once ask a nutritionist on this subject , his best answer is : if you can provide me with how much calories it expends and what food intake its daily meals are ......I might venture you a guess.

"As close to natural food as possible" is a great catch phrase and sounds very humane ( or is it birdane?) but difficult to adhere to . By looking at what was and is being practiced presently in the West, one cannot but come to realise that what they were practicing is almost similar to what the Asian were and are doing.

.... through trial and error initially and later with the help of breeding data and the help and guess work by nutritionist, the perceived "optimum" nutritional requirement is established and this is promptly substituted with cereal , seeds and fruits that are equivalent in nutritional value to what is deemed good for the bird, but in reality totally different from a birds natural food.....

I see this as no different to the Asian approach in bird keeping (feeding).... initially through empirical trial and error with substitutes and such knowledge are refined and pass down through generations, and in recent years with a better understanding of nutrition value we come to realized that it was in fact "an unscientific approach" that ended up with a rather scientific revelation that it was a good substitute for our pet bird nutrient-wise.

Hence in feeding, I believe there is no right or wrong, as long as the basic nutrients of sufficient quantity are being given and taken by your pet bird . As to how much and how often and the quantity it all depends on what is your end objective. In most instances around Asia when white-eyes are kept as pet, the owners are attracted by its singing capability.

So it is by no coincidence that generations of puteh owners concentrated on the effect of food to his pet's singing capability. As this is well within his control and he can assess the efficacy of the diet by observing his pet's singing prowess and relate it to the condition of its dropping.

The "myth" of too much fruits affects the performance of a bird is passed down knowledge and not necessarily a myth as noted by Jeffery on the droppings of top birds in the "chai" areas mainly confirms this "myth" as something believable. Though I seldom go to these chai area to take a peek on the top birds shit( people will think I am crazy going around admiring shits ) , but I have noted this aspect on the 12 birds that I keep, most of my top form puteh's excreta are small slightly wet but firm and not watery conforming to this observation. Am I perpetuating a myth!!? I hope not. :

Are they happy in my cages??

Would they prefer to be free and look for their own food ?

My educated guess is yes they are happy as they sing most of the day. And if I were them I want to have the food and be free too!

Warmest Regards!


by jeffreylow on Sat Nov 18, 2006 4:38 am
Hi Sam,

Thanks for taking the time to read my response to your post. Firstly, let me assure you that my feelings were not hurt at all by what you have said in your initial post even if I had sounded like I am from a different school of thought when it comes to puteh keeping. In actual fact, I think it is a very healthy way of keeping the forum alive if more puteh brudders would express their opinions on issues like this without too much reservations. I am sure you would agree that we don't have to be from the same school in order to share.

Sam, I had said from the very beginning that there is no doubt at all in what you had mentioned on how to keep a puteh healthy. I had also repeatedly tried to differentiate between keeping a puteh healthy and keeping a puteh for competition so as to be able to get to the "point of contention" without any confusion. Perhaps, I could have done it better.

Health of puteh as judged by whether the faeces is watery or not :
I do not think that a puteh fed on lots of fruits and food of high water content that resulted in watery faeces is in poor health and I do not think that the old timers would say that too. I was merely trying to explain the reason behind the old timers' preference for firmer faeces (firm faeces = correct diet = tip top form for competition). Regardless of whether it is morally right or wrong when keeping birds for competitive purposes, there is a basis for such a belief and there are results as seen in winning birds. Therefore, my point was to say that such belief should not be merely brushed aside as a myth or misconception. The objectives of keeping birds can be different but it should not mean that what the differing group is practising can be classified to be based on myths and misconceptions, especially so if such practice is with basis and comes with significant results.

My full agreement with your point on we should give some thoughts as to what the puteh wants and not to manipulate it to satisfy what we want. Sadly, as humans we often do not do what we should. Anyway, if I were a puteh, I would not want to be kept in a cage for the purpose of someone to enjoy my song and liveliness as much as I would not want to be kept in a cage for competitive purposes. I would rather buka free on the branches of the trees in the jungles. But lets not go into this or else inevitably, we would spark off an off-topic discussion like whether an animal lover should also be a vegetarian before he can be classified as an animal lover. :

By the way, I would like to apologise for not introducing myself in the proper section before starting to post in the forum ( I only realise much later that there is such a section). So to you Sam and other puteh kakis, allow me to briefly introduce myself in regards to puteh keeping. I started keeping putehs in the 60's when I was a very young kid. Hope this will not put me in the category of 'old timers' that perpectuate myths and misconceptions. Over the years, I had kept hundreds of putehs and experimented with different methods both traditional and otherwise. Although I am not keeping many birds these days, my interest in this hobby had never died and probably will not before I do. I had learned many things in regards to bird keeping both the asian way from people I regard as old timers during my younger days as well as from the westerners that I had met over the years and during a period of time a long time ago, when I was employed as a bird trainer in the bird park here. This is a good forum and I sincerely look forward to learning new tricks from you and the other younger kakis here. Cheers.


by jeffreylow on Sat Nov 18, 2006 5:00 am
Hi Sunny,

What a well written piece that was. Many thanks for sharing all these. There's is nothing I could add on except to say that I too had many putehs using the traditional dry mix as the main staple and keeping them the way old timers of my time had taught me and all had lived very healthily, some over 10 years and winning prizes as well during their prime. Enjoy your putehs Sunny.


by softbillsaviary on Sat Nov 18, 2006 9:52 am
Dear Jeffrey and Sunny,

Thank you for sharing and a big warm welcome to both of you.

When I wrote my reply to Jeffrey, I had mentioned about 'hurting some brudders' sensitivities', this was not aimed at Jeffrey but at everyone. My greatest fear is that someone else will take umbrage at what I had said and start a war of words. This did happen in another section of this Forum among some other brudders.

Judging from Jeffrey's writing, it was quite easy for me to tell that brudder Jeffrey is a matured birdkeeper, although not from the same school. And Sunny is certainly a matured Puteh birdkeeper in the same class.

I wish for more contributions from other fellow brudders as we are always learning.

My approach may differ from Jeffrey and Sunny, but the aim is the same -a happy, healthy and beautiful Puteh. The only difference is that I am not into competitions.

But would I like to know more about competitions and how Putehs are trained for competition? Definitely! That in fact is very interesting, I have heard all sorts of stories from old timers and some were very funny.

Btw, I too started keeping birds since I was kid in the 1960s, does that make me an old timer? I started with local merboks which I trapped in my primary school field. Later I went on to keeping other birds - budgies, local parrots, canaries, finches, Jambuls etc etc.

warmest regards,


  1. ggg...been quite a few yrs since here...great infos on putehs diet...fine comparisons of west vs east and purpose.
    i started keeping MP some 20+yrs back...but all the time not more than 7 birds...on and off sold and started again.
    yes i'm 1 whos eyeing competitions
    and the only thing i wld like to add here is...other than diet...i believe in bringing the bird around diff places as often as i cld :)

  2. If some one wishes expert view on the topic
    of running a blog afterward i recommend him/her to visit this website, Keep up the
    fastidious work.

    Here is my weblog ::

  3. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.
    I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and may come back at
    some point. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great job, have a nice day!

    my web blog: green coffee extract