Thursday, April 15, 2010


I see in the Malaysian Shama Forum that there is some discussion on whether or not shamas should be sunned.  Like any topic in which hobbyists have an interest there will always be differing views and practices.  I would like to add my own.

In any consideration on the effect of sunlight on the shama, the first thing to note is that the bird itself seems to enjoy some sunshine.  When exposed to the morning or evening sun, which does not burn, the shama will tend to bask on the floor or perch with outstretched wings; its head lolling to one side, its eyes closed.  All in all, it is like a man on the beach, trying to put on a tan and liking the caress of the warm sun on his skin.

The very fact that the shama seems to enjoy sunshine, or at least a limited amount of it, must indicate that sunlight is beneficial to the bird in some way.  This is so since biological studies have established that the wild bird gets most of its Vitamin D3 requirement from sunlight.  This critical vitamin is needed to process calcium for the formation of bone.  If sunlight is not available to the captive bird, an alternative source of this vitamin will have to be provided.  This is not a problem since commercially available calcium products include vitamin D3.

In addition to assisting in bone formation, sunshine may also be helpful in eradicatimg mites or to reduce their numbers on the bird.  Here again, any lack of sunshine can be remedied by the use of insecticides such as Frontline.

The question then arises as to whether the shama still needs to be sunned if vitamin D3 and insecticides are available as alternatives to sunlight.  Let’s see what they do in Indonesia.  There is a general belief in that country that the shama requires sunlight. Starting with short periods of 20 minutes a day, the time is gradually lengthened until the hobbyist suns his shama for up to 2 hours a day.  Experienced shama keepers in Indonesia advocate exposure to sunlight to bring up the bird’s form.  Such exposure is advised especially in preparing the bird for competition.

I think the tendency to sun the shama in Indonesia stems mainly from the fact that competitions there are held in open fields and last from morning to early afternoon.  Obviously, a shama that has not been exposed to large dozes of sunlight will wilt in the noonday sun and stand no chance in the competition.

I would think that if short periods of sunshine can be made available to the shama on a daily or frequent basis, no harm and some good may result to the shama.  The birds in my aviaries receive some sunshine and they seem to do well.  In the aviary, they can choose to sun themselves or to retreat to the shaded areas.  This is best since it is the shama which decides when he has had enough sunlight.

As regards those of my shamas in cages, I continue the practice of sunning those birds of Indonesian origin that I may have and whose owners have been sunning them.  I do not make it a practice to sun my other shamas on a regular basis.  The reason is that too much sunlight tends to dry the feathers.  This is not a problem with the short tailed Indonesian shamas that are kept for their song.  However, with long-tailed shamas, prolonged sunshine has the effect of drying the tail feathers.  This causes the primary tails to bend upwards and spoils the beauty of the bird.  I have not found that lack of sunlight adversely affects the form of my long-tailed shamas.


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