Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Skylark (San Ma)

The skylark has a strong following in Singapore amongst a small but growing group of fanciers that appreciate its song and display.  For myself, I have never appreciated the song of the average skylark. 

For most skylarks, the song comprises of an unending series of twitters akin to the song of many sparrows.  The best songsters, though, have a song that is modulated and varied and can be quite listenable.

What really impresses with the skylark is its display.  It can be mesmerizing.  In the best display, the skylark will begin by standing on the pedestal, which is a small “table” about 1½” in diameter in the center of the cage.  It will then rapidly flap its wings and this causes it to rise like a helicopter above the pedestal.  Whilst it is rising, it will continuously sing.   Having risen what may be several feet above the pedestal (depending on the height of the cage), it will gently return to the pedestal, barely touch the top, and immediately rise again.  Such a sight is rarely seen in a captive skylark and a bird that can do this on a regular basis is worth several times its weight in gold.

Notwithstanding my views on the skylark’s song, I have recently got a young skylark.  It has a reasonably pleasant song.  Also, it is quite tame and will readily take a mealworm from the hand.

When a skylark is tame it will likely sing whilst standing or walking on the floor of its cage.  However, not all will stand on the pedestal and sing. This was a problem that I had with my skylark and I needed to give some thought as to how my skylark could be encouraged to stand on the pedestal and display. I list below, some of the methods that I have heard about, or thought about, or tried.

1.              The standard height of the pedestal in a skylark cage can be 6” or more above the cage floor.  This can be too high for an untrained bird.  It helps if the height of the pedestal is lowered to 3” or 4”;

2.              Instead of lowering the pedestal, several pedestals of differing heights may be placed in the cage;

3.              An alternative would be to place several small blocks of wood of different heights in the cage.  These can be easily removed after the bird is trained;

4.              I have found that placing a tray with food with the top just about level with the birds’ head helps to teach the bird to climb;

5.              One method that I have read about is to place the cage with the bird in the sun.  As the sand on the cage floor gets hot, the bird will be encouraged to stand on the pedestal;

6.              The method that I have found to be most effective is to cover a portion of the cage bars in the lower part of the cage so that the bird cannot see the outside if it stands on the floor of the cage.  Newspaper or some other material can be used. The material should cover the bars to about the height of the pedestal.  The skylark is by nature curious and not being able to see from the cage floor encourages the bird to look for a higher vantage point.  Mine started standing on the pedestal within a day of using this method.

My skylark now regularly stands on the pedestal and sings.  He seems to be coming into form as he quivers his wings while singing.  The next step is to teach him to fly above the pedestal.

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