Thursday, October 29, 2009

Breeding the Java Sparrow

I am getting lazy, so I will paste something I wrote in the Malaysia Bird Forum (its a reply to a member's request for help in setting up an aviary as his school science project):

OK, I have thought about this project over and I present my thoughts and invite debates

Now, from the management of aviaries point of view. It would be difficult to manage a multi species aviary especially in a school compound.
You must think of the non-working weekends - who is in charge? of cleaning, feeding etc.
Think of the long school holidays - who is in charge?
It is not a short term project. Long term management and upkeep have to be considered lest it becomes another "big idea" that becomes neglected over time.
Keep in mind that the birds are living things and can't be put on hold even though the human carers have more important things to do.

My suggestion. Keep things simple. Have a single specie aviary. It would make the upkeep simple such as food and nesting requirements. So, even the gardener can be taught quite simply how to maintain the aviary. Another problem solved would be inter species compatibility. Some species are quite aggressive and could present a problem for other more docile species.

So, what do I suggest you keep? It has to be non TP (totally protected), no license requirement (cost and frozen licenses comes to mind), preferably local breed (you are teaching local kids here, so might as well teach them the love for their own Country's fauna) and hopefully there is a higher purpose to all of this.

What specie eh?

Let me suggest the Jelatek or Java Sparrow. They were common wild birds back in the old days. Stories of "pikat Jelatek" , catching Jelatek etc etc abounds if you speak to some old timers. First they are hardy birds, live well in a communal and breeds readily in an aviary. Not to mention that they are actually attractive birds and one of those local species that does not require a license to keep. As the population in the aviary grows, consider tagging and releasing the birds to hopefully establish a thriving wild population (this is the higher purpose that I spoke about). For "ego" purposes maybe can tag as SKDB (Sekolah Kebangsaan Dean Barau hahahaha!). Then your school can be proud of something, the kids learn something, the Country benefits somehow and DeanBarau has less work to do

Wa! I am spending too much time in the Forum. Must get back to my TV. How guys? feedback! feedback!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Retro Movies - Lucky

A tribute to my first ever Mata Puteh that I kept. Finding old footages to share ;)

Seems like a long time ago. This is one maintenance free fella. Out in the morning and back in the evening, always with his cage door open so that he knows where to get his food. I gave him away to a friend who practice the same schedule as well.
One day, his new owner forgot to put out his cage for him to return to and he was never seen again :(

That is the peril of keeping birds in such a way. Its a dangerous world out there.... and so, we suspect that Lucky fell prey to some predators.

note: I have accidently uploaded the same video twice & do not know how to remove it.... sigh!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bathing Birds

Bath time has always been a favourite thing to do for most of the birds (there are actually exceptions). It is also a time consuming activity especially so if you keep an unsane number of birds. Just sharing how I manage.

For Oriental White Eyes (Mata Puteh), the occasional luxury I can accord them is a hanging bath cage in a sunny area where I know the shadow will cover it within 20 minutes. In this bath cage, I provide food and a big cup of water (to bath). A tray would be out of the question as it would be too heavy when filled with water. It has the purpose of providing extra space, activities, sunning and "bath all you like" for the enjoyment of the birds.

Then there are the Red-whiskered Bulbuls (Merbah Jambul) which is more straight forward. A round aluminium container filled with water is placed inside their cage for them to bath as and when they want.

The White-rumped Shamas that tends to get their tail damaged in a bathing cage, the set up would be like below. Cage and bath cage is aligned so that the bird is free to bath and get back to its cage to shake and preen itself.
This is not without risk especially where there are energetic pets running around or the inquisitive children at home ;)

Territorial birds like the Shamas can turn a mundane bathing event to a "mini singing contest". Its a joy or nuisance depending on how much time one has. If all the time in the world, then its a fun thing to observe. If rushing to fetch the kids or something, not many birds will get their bath :(

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Zosterops Palpebrosa Pt.3

This is Thor, personally I think quite potential to be developed into a good bird if no bad habits set in.

He came to me uninvited, meaning I wasn't actually looking to increase my stock of Puteh. But after hearing stories about him, I was tempted. See, among hundreds of Putehs that passed by this trader's hand, 2 caught his attention and he dumped them with another 8 Putehs that he thinks got potential into a "ladung" (big cage, usually 4 feet by 2 feet). 1 broke its leg and left 1 which he thought he better let me keep.
Well, only time will tell whether this trader knows his stuff or maybe whether I know my stuff

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Captive Bred vs Wild Caught

Now, this is an old topic that was hotly debated many times before. My thoughts are that it is an unfair comparison especially when proponents of wild caught Shamas points out to the many good wild stocks that is in the competition arena. I have kept many wild caught Shamas and I can say that not all of them are equal. As is always the way life is - its never fair ;) Some are just more gifted than others just like us humans.

The reasons why there are a lot of good wild Shamas around are just a game of probability. See, most Shamas kept in this region are caught from the wild and for every good Shama found in the arena, many more has been rejects. Serious breeders of the Shama can be counted. There are not many of them around. What the proponent of wild caught Shamas need to do is point to a lesser captive bred specimen and loudly proclaims that "I told you so", "cannot play one". He fails to realise that captive bred birds are not yet well represented. Given time and as the numbers of captive bred Shamas become available, I am more than certain excellent specimens will emerge on the competition scene.

After decades of harvesting good birds from the wild, could it be possible that the gene pool of excellent Shamas from the wild has been depleted? Many old timers who has been around long enough to see birds of yesteryears and what is available now would testify to that. It seems that it is becoming more and more difficult to find Shamas that are truly excellent.

I believe Shama connoiseurs has no choice but depend on captive breeding to maintain the quality of birds. Breeding from fine specimens and selecting traits that are desirable appears to be the best way forward.

Of course not all will agree with me. But that is the beauty of us humans. We can agree to disagree and only time will tell. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Member in the Family

Long tailed Shamas are quite hard to find. Harder still are long tailed Shamas that are good structurally and most importantly, to me is one with a good "heart". One that is brave and not easily spooked. This is so that on a rough and tumble cross country journey to compete in faraway towns, they will still arrive in top form ;)

I am lucky to come into possession of a good specimen of the long tailed Shama. Its considered a gift from a good friend who is a connoiseur of the White-rumped Shamas as I only paid a fraction of its worth. Currently just completed his molt and hopefully will rise in form in the coming one or two months time (keeping my fingers crossed that it won't happen the other way round ;) - drop on form.... yikes!)

A few molted mealworms smeared with a liquid vitamin for breakfast:

He went for it with great enthusiasm:

Because I was rushing out to work in the morning, I only manage to capture a few shots using my mobile phone. So, quality is a bit grainy. Will get down to more serious video shooting when he really gets settled down.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Breeding the Henny Mutation Gallus gallus

Henny mutation in Red Jungle Fowl (RJF) is not uncommon. It is characterised by female coloured feathering in the male. What is uncommon is probably breeding the original (untainted) henny feathered RJF.

This is a good specimen of a very original looking female RJF (so I have been told). Notice the orderly fan like tail feathers and almost non-existent comb on the head:

She came from a brood of eggs found in the jungle and was artificially hatched. Funny things was, my friends and I expected her to disappear into the jungle when kept as a free roaming chicken. She did disappear for an entire day initially, flying over my neighbour's two storey house and disappear from sight. She came back and now behaves like a normal village chicken, weary of humans but not frightened. When friends drop by, she rarely wanders near. But when I am alone, she can come right to my feet.

Her favourite night roosting spot is right on top of my main door (shucks!)

They are getting too bold for my liking hehehe! climbing all over and recently breaking my mortar grinder I left on the garden table.

And finally a brood of 4 chicks as a result. Do not know how the chicks will turn out, but there is high chance of getting henny feathered cocks as the cock that I have also comes from a sire with henny feathering. It appears to be a passable genetic mutation.

[Apart from the hen-like feathers, males with this trait have a substantially reduced reproductive ability, probably because the increased levels of plasma oestrogen inhibit spermatogenesis (George et al., 1990)]
The above in italics is taken from an article. Just so lucky that my male is did not lose his reproductive ability. A first clutch for cock and hen that has been successfully hatched. Although the initial eggs laid are 7, I can only find 4 live chickens. Maybe I can blame the neighbourhood cats :(

Note: It is illegal to keep the RJF in Malaysia (although it is quite difficult to prove which is the RJF and which has been cross bred with the local chicken). However, if they are not tied or caged, then it is perfectly alright ;)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Breeding Jambuls Pt1

Finally decided to utilise the empty aviary for my pair of Jambul (Red-whiskered Bulbul). Would introduce a pair of quail later to act as a cleaner for the aviary floor.
Its interesting to note the difference between keeping aviary and cage birds.
Firstly, there is much more space for them to fly and initially they are clumsy fliers. But after much practice, they become quite good but still not strong - maybe the side effect of years in a small cage ;)
Then there is allopreening (preening of the feathers of one bird by another), an endearing trait observed just a day after introducing the pair.
The method I chose to introduce the pair to the aviary is the lazy man's method of "dump & pray". As described, its a very easy method. Dump both of them in and pray they do not tear each other apart ;D
Male is an old bird from Layang-layang in Johor. Very old bird, probably above 10 years of age. Female is from Tasik Gelugor in Penang, a very tame bird firstly thought to be a male until she laid a couple of eggs.
Disadvantage of aviary birds is that there is much less control. Especially on the dry food and supplements that I can feed them. Too much fruits is made available that they eat very little of dry food, so my solution at the moment is to smear the fruits with dry pellets and control the quantity of mealworms given.

Other concern is whether the male is too old for breeding. Honestly, I am not really that concerned about it. I have not kept Jambuls in aviary before, so the chance to observe them in aviary settings is good enough. If they did breed, then it would be a bonus. There is an additional challenge of keeping the pests like squirrels, rats, mice, snakes, ants etc etc away. And keeping the aviary clean.

Today is day 4 for the pair in the aviary.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Zosterops Palpebrosa Pt.2

Follow up to the escaped Puteh event - around 7pm, saw a tiny bird flew out of the car porch when I went outside. That fella has to be the escaped bird. So, since he came back after all, I rig up the trap and just left it at that.

Woke up around 1am today and saw the little fella was safely in the trap:

A quick clean up of an old cage, top up of food and water and hope he is happy. Anyway this bird is destined for an aviary life (booked by a friend already), together with the female. Hope he does well in his new home later on ;)

Since I am touching on the topic of giving away Putehs, this is one fella up for adoption (also booked already). Thought I might as well document him on film and write a little about him.
He was bought from a bird shop in K.L., randomly picked by a friend and "buka" a little at home 2 weeks later. Can't remember how long I had him, but it must have been only months. He does not appear to have a very long "buka" (some folks call "petik") but he made it up by being quite steady - meaning he is willing and eager to sing at most places. So much different from the old Puteh I had before (singing in the background) that is only stabilising now (> 2 years), maybe due to my lack of experience in keeping Putehs.
I believe this fella can still improve. But I am going to be more selective now. As I believe a good competition bird needs time to become mature and reliabe. So, tentatively I am looking at a couple years of investment at least :( Now, when will Thor's time be? :D

Note: video taken around 1 am, after I woke up and switch on the light. They must have thought it was morning already :D

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Zosterops Palpebrosa Pt.1

After much debate about Oriental White-eye (OWE) and Everett's White-eye EWE), finally I decided to get a pair of OWE. Cannot really say though, but looks like OWE, the owner swears its a OWE and sound like OWE. So, it must be an OWE hahaha!

Unfortunately the male (shown in picture) decided to leave my house today (escaped from a gap in the bathing cage), I am just too tired to trap him back. Already kept all my Putehs, lazy to hang them out again. If I do, I think he will not go too far & comes back. Especially so since there is a female in the house :)
Well, I have always been firm about escaped birds. If they want to leave, by all means (especially when they escaped on their own) they can hehehe!
Unless they are the type that cannot fend for themselves (baby birds & handicapped birds), I am not too bothered.

Anyway, as a consolation, I just got one OWE that has a thunderous voice. I will call him Thor for the moment. Offered to me out of the blue by a trader. Deal is, I have to give him half of the proceed if I sell the bird. I reminded him that I do not sell birds and it could be a long wait for him hehehe!
Will think of something to give him later ;)