shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

Bird born in captivity & 353 heads // Meet Jackie


In my reports of Oberon, Ketile in a French forum read of my difficulties and asked
"As a friend, wouldn't it be easier to find a bird born in captivity ??"

Ketile meant well. When I wrote my report " To Shanlung - How to do Free Flight Outside ", I mentioned that started
at a French forum. Ketile asked me then that question, and which lead to my report.

This question can be seen from two main different angles.

Angle 1

You all knew I had relationships with wild birds in the first place.

Riamfada was a wild caught CAG as seen in her open leg ring. She was a rescue and given to my charge when she was about 5-6 years old. She came to me bitey and fearful.


In about a year, she was doing free flights to me.


Yingshiong above is a white rumped shama. A shama is a songbird. He was caught from the wild at about 3 years old. He was given into my charge at about 5 years old. He flew to me on cue within a month of coming to me. Breeders of shamas told me even their breed shamas , some they hand raised, never ever landed on them. They told me above was the first ever they seen of a male shama landing on a human.


Libai is a Greater Greenleaf song bird. Caught from the wild and probably about 3 years old or so when he came to me.

Even wild caught and old birds can be so easily trained and bonded if you know how.

Understanding them is the first and most important step that can be taken.
That is the most fundamental truth in looking after birds.

One do not need a young bird be the bird from breeder or anywhere else.

If one start on this route, where will that end?
Getting younger birds?
Getting handfed birds?
Getting baby birds?
With eyes still closed?

That we get them young to imprint them that they are humans and not birds so they interact better with us?
Getting very young birds apparently caused much problems with the birds when they are older.
I wrote on this problem in
Imprinting of birds

I think it is far better to let the young birdie remain with their birdie parents.
For them to know that they are birdies.

Oberon was different. When I first took him in, my main thought then was to return him back to where I felt he belonged. And I think that affected my mindset towards him. His acting as if I was the fearful bogeyman , that I dared not even change the newspapers catching his pooping for the two months he was with me.


Oberon -Returning him to the realm of Fairy Queens
It was so painful at the point of his release when he only flew that 5 meters to the edge of the forest and perched there to look back at me instead of flying non stop into the forest as I thought he would.

That perhaps the relationship between Oberon and myself had actually started but with my main thoughts of returning him back prevented me from recognising that in the first place.

I do not have that idyllic vision that back to the wild is paradise for wild birds. As sadly, whatever is left of the wild is only a shadow of the original primordial forest.. And even if it was the original primordial forest, that still can be paradise, or can be hell. It is a struggle of survival of the fittest, a struggle for life and death.

When I cleaned the flight room, I found many flight feathers that he molted. Those flight feathers had been clipped. Which explained why Oberon could not fly the first couple of days. It was not just that he needed to rebuilt his flight muscles. In his two months with me, I returned to him the gift of flight. And helped him build up muscles and fat reserves.

I gained too. From having such a beautiful bird like the Asian fairy bluebird living with me and having his beauty and pleasure of his company for a while. And he did land on me as chronicled in the photos. You all have seen a bird which otherwise you all would never have seen or even know about.

I learned too. That perhaps having a treat might not be all that important for clicker training even if I had not proceeded with that phase with Oberon. Relationship is far more important. After all, Tinkerbell, Riamfada tend to take and threw away my sunflower seeds when I offered it to them. Yingshiong, even when allowed free feeding of millis, would still harassed me for training as if the millis from my hand mattered more than the millis left for him in open box in his room. And none of them flew to my wife who tried to bribe them shamelessly and they flew to me even though it was clear the treat box was with my wife and I had empty hands.

Angle 2

Should wild caught birds even be bought at all?

Should not wild birds be allowed to remain in the wild and not captured by anyone at all?

But to do that, the parrots and birds and beasties must have the original primordial lands that they were in. But sadly most of the decline in the numbers came because of the loss of their habitat as man encroached into their areas.

There is this saying that when the buying stop, the selling will stop too.

At one time, I fully subscribed to this school of thought as I thought then that if no wild birds were bought , they then can continue to live their lives in the way that they should and live happily ever after.

Then an article I read compelled me to a major rethink and to write of that in June 2009 in
Are we helping the wild greys by banning all imports of them?

The article written by Dave Harcourt is here

That as there is a total ban on any wild caught african greys, the value of the greys in their original land become the meat on their bodies and cooking pot. The heads have little meat and then sold which was why that smuggler was caught with a bag stuffed with the heads of 353 african greys.

I realised then I could hardly blame the poor Africans trying to make their living farming and with African greys probably eating their crops. In the past, they could catch and sell the parrots.

I thought back to myself when I was living in Oman with Riamfada. In my garden then, I grew sunflower plants. And beautiful IRNs would fly in to eat the heads of the sunflower plants.

Above was one of the IRNs on my sunflower plants.
I even accepted that at first.
Until I discovered Riamfada loved the sunflower seeds in the dried heads of the sunflowers




Video of Riam chewing on the head

And I loved to see Riam digging those seeds out one by one even though I had loads of store bought sunflower seeds.

If the IRNs continued to be allowed to eat the seeds in the developing heads off my plants, there would be none left for Riamfada.

I tied plastic bags around the developing heads of my sunflower plants to prevent the IRNs from eating the heads so the heads could ripened.

I tried to return some of those heads back to the wild IRNs on a basket later hoisted high up out of reach of my kitties.
And even added store bought sunflower seeds into that basket as well.


The IRNs did not go to that basket.
The wild IRNs flew in to the sunflower plants still wanting to eat the developing heads.

And I did not remove the plastic bags around the developing heads.

If any of you were in my position, would you allow those IRNs to get to those developing heads?
To sacrifice the happiness of your own grey and feed your grey only with store bought sunflower seeds and let the IRNs have the developing heads of the sunflowers?

Then you are a far better man than myself. I could not do that even though I loved those IRNs.

And that was not even a matter of life and death for me or Riamfada. After all, Riam did not even need any sunflower seeds. It was more for my , and her esoteric pleasure in digging those seeds out of the heads.

What if I was a poor African farmer and I need my crops to feed myself and my family which are being eaten by African greys? In the past where perhaps I could sell the greys I caught , I might let them live to be caught. And if I can no longer do that since wild caughts are all banned, I probably be compelled to kill the greys to save my crops and eat them.

And sell the heads.

And please do not blame the African farmers. We want coffee and more coffee. So more forest are cut to grow coffee beans. Or we want beef or pork or chicken. And another part of the forest got cut to turn into grass land or to grow soy beans for the cattle or pigs or chicken. We poisoned our Earth with CO2 causing drought or flood and more forest had to be cut for them to grow their crops.

One need not even be a poor African farmer.

One can be a rich Australian farmer. Where 95% of the original forest and grassland of Australia are now taken over from the local flora and fauna and turned into fruit plantations, sugar cane plantations, grassland for sheeps and suburbs and houses and roads and playgrounds.

No trapping of wild birds are allowed in Australia.
But can the remaining fragmented 5% of the original land support all the wild beasties and birdies?
But if the lorikeets and cockatoos from Major Mitchells to Galahs to Blacks to Ganggangs to Sulphur Cresteds are caught eating the fruits of your fruit trees, you can shoot and kill them all.

They need only to bury the bodies quietly in the field somewhere.
I guess they just cannot sell the heads.

Or the lorikeets and other birds can starve to death as can be read in this article.
Rainbow lorikeets are becoming less common on the Gold Coast, as development takes away their habitat and food sources.

I do want wild birds and parrots to live, to truly live in the wild.

I do not believe a total ban on selling of wild birds will help them to live.

Only if their value can be recognised and accepted as a sustained resource to be treasured by the people living with the wild birds that only then the birds can continue to live in the wild.

For that to happen, there must be market for wild caught birds, caught and sold in a sustained way that they can continue to live in the wild.

But an unholy alliance of breeders stopped that. So they can sell their captive breds without the market being upset by wild caughts. And they created a movement to totally ban wild caughts as if they have a true interest in protecting the parrots in the wild. People who meant well, which included me in the past, jumped on and joined them all in declaring wild caughts are immoral and must be totally stopped.

Joining those NO WILD CAUGHTS campaign will make you feel good inside.
Will that do any good for the wild birds to be caught for the pot or just shot and buried in an unmarked hole in the fields of Australia farmland or fruit plantations?

While those breeders laughed all the way to their banks. Do think about that the next time you are asked to support a cause against wild caughts. And asked to give them money so that they can continue lobbying against wild caughts.

Even the bred parrots and birds came from original wild caughts.

Without those wild caughts from which my Tinkerbell was bred from, and who ignited in me a realisation how precious birds can be, the ShanLung that you know would never have existed.

Would I be writing the way I am writing on birdies and beasties if I had not have Tinkerbell in my life?
No, I probably would not.

Would I have become a life member of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust with no Tinkerbell in my life?
No, I probably would not.


Even though my original intention was to rehab Oberon and let him go, it was very difficult for me the days after.
I had been sorely tempted to go back there to see if I could find Oberon.

The quiet and the loneliness of the empty flight room was getting to me.

I decided I really needed a companion bird. I just could not get a grey or an Eckky or a 2 or macaw.
The uncertainty of my own future and the possibility of my leaving should an acceptable offer be made to me prevented that. I needed a bird that is local and that I could release back into the wild should I have to go.

I did not want a shama as it would be inevitable I compared with Yingshiong. For that matter, I did not want a green leaf bird.

I had kept a Hill Mynah before in the past. That was a Nias Hill Mynah, Gracula religiosa robusta.
My work in early 1980s took me regularly to Jakarta, Indonesia. I was advising on the construction of Tifa Arum, a mixed development shopping center/office block. In my spare time, I went around Jakarta and came across a market where birds were sold. There was when I first set my eyes on the Asian Fairy Bluebird. My love for that bird started 30 years ago.

I saw also the Nias Hill Mynah, the largest of the hill mynahs. I decided to buy him. I think it was about US$50 in those days.

In those days, there were no suicidal terror bombings and no hijacking of planes in that part of the world.
In those days, there were no xrays machines and little to no checking at airports.

That mynah was in a paper bag in between my legs in the airport. Every time it moved, I moved my legs to disguise that. Folks around me thought I was having fits and moved away from me. I made gurgling noises together with violent loud coughing to cover his calling and more folks moved away from me.

We all got on board the plane and came back to Singapore. That mynah lived in an aviary in my garden. Or rather a big cage about 5 feet high, five feet wide and 3 feet deep.

That Nias was a beautiful bird and huge, about the size of a grey and with legs the size of lead pencils. I felt so sorry now thinking back on those days that I never interacted with that bird other than giving of food and water and watching him from time to time. I did not even named him.

He lived with me for about 3 years.

Sad to say, Nias hill mynahs could not stand the test of time against humans and I do believe that they are in great danger in where they came from. Nias hill mynahs are in grave danger of extinction now. No Robusta should be kept in captivity now unless they are part of a breeding program to preserve them for later return to where they originated.

I still felt some residual guilt at my not taking care of that Robusta in the way I would have now. And in a way to atone for that that lead to this path.

I then thought about a hill mynah, a Java Hill Mynah, Gracula religiosa religiosa. That was also a local bird which might fit in. I checked their care on the Internet. Information was very sparse. That they will be happy in a cage where they can hop about back and forth. I laughed to read that. Even 30 years ago, without knowing a fraction of what I know now, the cage I provided for my Robusta allowed more than to hop back and forth.

I found out hill mynahs are frugivorous, eating ripened fruits, and also taking insects and lizards as well. And that
mynahs are often affected by hemochromatosis or iron storage disease and need a low iron diet.

I saw some young adults religiosa in the shop where I got Oberon. I had been thinking of them as well until Oberon suddenly entered my life.

On Thursday 6th Oct I went to that shop in the afternoon. There was one who looked boldly at me without fear.
I felt he could be my companion. One that I could live with and should I leave for an assignment and not be able to continue with him, he could be then given his freedom. I thought with ample Oberon mash still with me, I would be able to take good care of his diet. I barely glanced at what he was fed in the shop which was chicken feed and declined even a small bag of chicken feed that the shop keeper was throwing in gratis.

Black Jack came back with me in a cardboard box with air holes punched in it. I weighed him inside the box and then the box after he was liberated in the flight room.

His weight was 357 - 170 = 167 grams.

He came out of the box in a daze. He flapped and flapped and could hardly fly at all. He fell off the table to the floor to flutter around a bit. Half hour later, he could just barely fly up to the top of the cage.


He showed no interest at all in Oberon mash. He became better at flying. He spend the rest of the day flying from top of the cage to the screen on the window as if delighted he could be flying again. I guessed that being able to fly took his entire interest. I thought never mind about eating as I was sure he be happily eating the next day.



I left him in his flight room to fly from top of cage to screen and back again that he kept doing again and again. I thought that was good to burn his energy up and be nice and hungry for the mash. I went back to Internet to check on hill mynahs in earnest. To find what I thought was earlier cursory check was almost all that was on hill mynahs.

And incongruous results. Such as they love figs, and figs known to be rich in iron. Bananas was bad for them as bananas rich in iron. Grapes bad for same reasons. Oberon mash contained bananas and I even bought some bananas just to feed him. But I thought a few days of Oberon mash would not kill him.

About the best source of information was by Frank Indiviglio

Much of the rest of the info found on the net appeared to be copy of copies of copies.

Frank appeared unwilling to rock the boat on hill mynah hemochromatosis. He found mynahs on very low iron diet also keeled over. And that the figs that mynahs loved were rich in iron. Go figure that out yourself as I am very confused myself too.

But I thought I still play safe.

I decided to change his name to Jackie. Only DNA testing can tell male from female. And Jackie is a good unisex name. But if Jackie lays an egg, we all will know Jackie is a she.

On Friday the next day, I fixed him a nice portion of Oberon Mash and left it on his perch. He was still nervous of me notwithstanding the way he stared back at me so boldly when he was in the shop. I watched him as he practised his flying from the cage top, to the cage door and then to the screen on the window over and over again.

While I obviously could not weigh him, I weighed everything else including the mash I gave to him and the pieces of bananas. The scale never lied. While there was a drop in weight in the mash, I knew that was from evaporation. The pieces of bananas were left untouched. If he was not flying so nicely and looked well in that way, I would be very worried if he was not well in the first place.

Beans had been soaking from day before. The kitty mash ran out and a new batch was been made. With care for Jackie. 400 grams of chicken mince and 200 grams of beef and that 200 grams of dried anchovies (for calcium) and the rest you all know. I could not make a different batch of mash for Jackie but I compromised by using lots more chicken. I was no longer in the mindset of getting to know Jackie. My only thought was that he must eat.

On Saturday, his flying was getting on so well that I saw him now flying in circles in the room. It was from the cage top to the screen. And then he would fly a loop around the room. Using the new mash, I offered that to him. He did not eat. Late morning I was worried enough to go to a birdshop near by me to get chicken feed. I poured him a portion of chicken feed. Mealworms were in another container. I bought chinese pear as I read chinese pear was liked by them. If I could find figs, I would have bought figs for Jackie. And again, the scale told me he did not eat by the end of Saturday.

I was getting very very worried to put it mildly. Never mind about him being a companion to me. He had to live. He had to eat.

Sunday morning I folded. I went to the birdshop at Tanjong Katong to buy the chicken feed that they used there to feed him. And a papaya from fruit store nearby before I headed back home to Jackie. He barely touched the old chicken feed. But I was so relieved that he ate pieces of the papaya.

I threw away whatever that was left of Oberon Mash. I made a new fruit puree. Of papaya, Chinese pear and mango. And added in 2 tablespoon of honey. I offered him the fruit puree. Jackie declined it.

On Monday, he started to eat the chicken feed to my immense relief. I never knew I could be so glad to see a bird eat chicken feed especially when the birdie is not a chicken.

I also tried to get him interested in the fruit puree. Fruit puree could be frozen, and lot easier than to cut fruits for him. And easier to add stuff into the puree to make it into Jackie mash.

I cut the papaya into tiny pieces and loaded the foraging cup with tiny pieces of papaya inside fruit puree. Like it or not, if he took the papaya, he had to taste the fruit puree as well.



It felt so good to see him taking the pieces of papaya, soaked in the fruit puree. It felt as good as seeing him finally eating the chicken feed.

Once he started on the chicken feed, he ate and ate and ate. He went on top of his cage and poop and poop. All onto a newspaper placed on the top just for that. The volume of his poop was as much as the volume of chicken feed. And color of the chicken feed. Which did not surprise me too much as I suspect chicken feed consisted largely of ground corn. Perhaps good for chicken with gizzard but could not be that good for birdies without gizzard. Who would then pooped it almost all out.

After 2 days on chicken feed, I had to encourage Jackie onto the kitty mash. Using weight, I mixed half kitty mash and half chicken feed together, very well mixed together. It came out very crumbly. Which was then given to Jackie. With some real pure chicken feed placed on top. He took the pure chicken feed. But I guessed crumbs of my mix got into his mouth. And soon enough, he ate and ate the new mix after he finished his chicken feed.

That was continued on yesterday. I noticed with great pleasure his poop was less in volume. And the size was about 1/3 the size of his former poop on pure chicken feed. And I knew for a fact that he was getting a lot more goodies in that than the best of any chicken feed.

I also reverted back to the steel feeding bowls. Filling that with fruit puree and with small pieces of papayas swimming in it. He ate the papayas. Then he took in all the fruit puree, finishing the bowl dry.

Today, Friday, I decided to alter that chicken feed mash mixed 50-50 with kitty/Libai mash once more. I mixed that with equal portion with kitty/Libai mash. Gave that in a bowl with some 50-50 mix on top to camouflage the change.
Jackie was waiting at top of the cage for me to enter his room. When I got in, weighed the bowl and place it onto the perch, he did not wait for me to leave the room. He flew down and started to dig into the mash. Finishing it all.

I also gave him fruit puree. I chopped some chinese li pear pieces into the fruit puree, with some tiny pieces of papaya. He too finished it all.

I was hoping to get him either onto the fruit puree which I then could entice him to other food, or get him into the kitty/libai mash, in which I could entice him into the fruit puree. I was so happy I got him to like both of them at the same time. I guess I could now make Jackie Mash for Jackie now.

And now that I no longer feared Jackie would keel over from not eating at all, I can think of extending friendship with him and persuading him it is nice to be friends with me too.

Tomorrow will be day 1 of getting to know Jackie as the entire first week was spend in figuring out his diet and just keeping him alive.

I finally unprocrastinated myself enough to get the mesh and sealed up the opening at the back laundry room where LiBai flew out from.

And yes, Jackie talked, or mimic my Hello, how are you. And in between his flights and his eating and his pooping, he vocalised.

Sadly, he did not seem to be taking any meal worms.

More photos in Flickr folder Oberon -Return to the realm of Fairy Queens

LiBai mash making.
About 300 grams of beef mince, with 200 grams of chicken mince and 150 grams of dried anchovies(for the calcium). That was all done up to the kitty mash formula I wrote about in
Pakistan//Tinkerbell Kitty Mash//Dommie at the beach Ramadhan 2010 //Villa walkabout 2
Instead of the almond and brazil nuts, about 100 grams of human grade groundnuts(peanuts) were used.

Making of Tinkerbell Mash
Morning with Harry & the decision// Sultan of Oman Palace// Tinkerbell Mash Batch 7

suri - Read "Conditioning clicker day 3 - and some tips on suris"

milli - read "Found the perfect treat and Yingshiong first "step up""

if you forgotten about clicker training

Tinkerbell Legacy - VH parrot and Clicker Training Rant 06

Some thoughts on clicker - The initial experience with Tinkerbell

Clicker training and bonding with Tinkerbell

To Shanlung-Charlie and clicker training

Charlie and clicker training - beyond touch target //LiBai on finger and in slow motion videos —



Read Riamfada free flights in villa // And around neighbourhood for explicit details

If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

I am a life member of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Do join us to do
whatever we can for the wildlife that shared our planet.
or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice

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