Monday, April 28, 2014

Juvenile feathers

This is a photo of the wings and tail feathers of my juvenile male shama, DDS261, at 37 days of age. It shows what can be achieved through careful selective line-breeding over many generations and proper nutrition and care.

 The feathers of wild-caught and captive-bred juvenile shamas (taimongs) are often ragged and lack shine.  Here the feathers have a health and sheen usually seen only in well kept adult shamas in top condition.

DDS261's father, Firefly, had taimong tails of 3.75" when he was 37 days of age.  These grew to the very great length (for a male taimong) of about 6.75" at 65 days.  The length of Firefly's taimong tails indicated that he would likely have very long first molt tails and he did not disappoint.  His first molt tails were 13.5".

In comparison, DDS261's tails at 37 days are 4" i.e substantially longer than his father's at the same age.  His brother from the same nest, DDS262, also has very long taimong tails of 3.75" at 37 days i.e. the same length as Firefly's tails at the same age.

Not only are the taimongs' tails long but they are also "piped" suggesting that this desirable feature may have been incorporated into my strain of captive bred shamas through selective line-breeding. It remains to be seen if the tails will remain piped (as in many of my shamas and all of Skyhawk's progeny), when the taimongs become adults.

The taimongs' tails still have a long way to grow.  Hopefully, they will be as long, or longer, than their father's tails when fully grown in about a month. I should mention that their other physical aspects are also not lacking and they have good heads and conformation.

What is exciting Jeffrey, Michael and I is not so much the length of DDS261 and DDS262's tails but the prospect that Firefly may be that one in a million bird, a "super male".  By this I mean that he may have the ability to pass on his attributes and exceptionally long tails to his offspring even when he is mated to females with short tails that do not carry the genes that produce long tails.

The mother of the taimongs is a wild-caught with primary tails of only 5". Firefly was outcrossed to her as she possesses certain characteristics that I want to have, or fix, in my shamas, including "piped" tails and a very good head.

The genes for long tails are recessive as they must be since, otherwise, all shamas would have long tails.  When a long tailed shama is mated to one with short tails that does not carry the gene for long tails, the resulting offspring should have short tails as the short tailed shama's genes will be dominant over the recessive genes for long tails.  The subject of genes and inheritance is more complex than this but this explanation suffices as an introduction to the subject.

I expected the offspring from the mating of Firefly and the short-tailed female to produce taimongs with short tails. Imagine my surprise to see the very long tails of his male offspring.

How is it possible that such long-tailed taimongs were produced from a mating with a short-tailed female? Jeffrey suggests 2 possibilities.  One is that the short-tailed female carries the genes for long tails which are not expressed in her features.  I think this is unlikely as the female was wild-caught and there are hardly any long-tailed shamas in the wild that could have bequeathed the genes to her.

The other possibility is much more exciting.  Jeffrey notes that generations of selective inbreeding and line-breeding would have resulted in a concentration of genes for long tails (and other desirable features) in my strain of shamas.  He speculates that such a concentration of genes could have resulted in the chance production of a "super male" in the form of Firefly that has the ability to beget male offspring with exceptionally long tails regardless of which female he is mated to.

If what Jeffrey speculates is true then Firefly is priceless but this is all conjecture at this time as it is much too early to come to any conclusions.  Nevertheless, the possibility that Firefly may be a super male makes for interesting conversation and endless discussions when we meet.

BTW, Andrew Tan mentioned to me yesterday that the taimong with 5.7" tails that he had acquired from me had tails of 12" after the first molt and 15" after the 2nd molt. He should be congratulated on the care of his shama.  I understand that the 2nd molt was in an outdoor aviary and this may have assisted the molt.


  1. Good illustration on the inline breeding of shama.👍

  2. This is a testimony to your years of hard work.

  3. This is a testimony to your years of dedication, hard work and determination in improving the structure and beauty of this species.

  4. hi david,
    ur blog is nothing less than a shama encyclopedia.It not only provide us all neccerssay infomations about bird but also promote this hobby.
    once again thanks for all ur help and all this impt informations shared
    Best Regards