December 8th, 2005

Pitta - In retrospect


This is painful to write, but the lessons learned here will be vital to prevent another loss.

When my wife Joy woke me up at 720 am, I kind of knew it even before she told me to look at the pitta.

Still, the sight of him lying on his side on the floor and very still was painful.

The deterioration of him was so rapid in the space of a few hours.

Where did I go wrong. With hindsight, plenty.

He was so weak when I first got him that any changes would be a great improvement. Besides food, he might have been dehydrated. So when I provided the water and food for him, he probably drank the water and showed a fast improvement and liveliness the next couple of days. Yingshiong the shama like and eat the YS mash that I formulated and adapted from a recipe for starlings which are insectivore.

Since it was planned to release the pitta, I tried to minimise my interactions with him. I observed his droppings with great care, partly from earlier fear of bird flu, and largely as an indication that he was eating. I thought if he shit, he must have eaten. Insectivores will metabolize the largely protein diet into their energy needs creating lots of urea which is white in color.

That was what I saw, his white droppings which I thought came from YS mash.

YS droppings were similar, except in the case of YS, he definately did eat.

The white color droppings could come also from their metabolizing their own fat and muscles too. And in this case, as I found in the last day, that was likely the case. I saw him as well, and I so wanted to believe that he was well, to the extent thy affected the conclusions I was drawing from the observations.

There were so many ifs and buts. On Friday, I tried to buy a syringe to feed him with a pasty mixture of YS mash. The pharmacy ran our of syringe amd I bought an eye dropper with a rubber bulb at one end. That eye dropper did not work as the mash was too coarse and the pasty mixture kind of exploded out with increased pressure. I could not use that for fear of getting food into his air passage and lungs. If I had the syringe with the better control, I would have syringe fed him on that first day , with perhaps different results.

Then when he looked so well the next morning and following days, I thought he ate, especially seeing that he shit often. I did not then follow up on my earlier intent to hunt for the syringe down town to syringe feed him.

I was afraid of contamination to my shama if I use the shama accurate scale for weighing the pitta. That weighing would also required much handling of the pitta , and since he appeared to be good, I was reluctant to handle the pitta too much as it was intended to return him to the wild.

I did not weigh the food bowl either. I made his mash more moist. There would be a drop in weight due to evaporation.

When I introduced the mealworms, and I counted less, I did not realised that many of them burrow under the food.

He looked lively until almost to the end, and I lowered my guard.

If I spend more time with him, I would have seen he was not eating at all and would had handled that differently. But because he looked good, I was afraid too much time spend with him would adversely affect his behaviour and his chances in the wild.


I heard YS singing away when I woke up. As I never woke up that early (or far too early and then leaving the apartment as well ) , of course, I assumed YS sang much later. He sang and sang, interrupting the singing with 4-5 minutes of silence.

At about 9, after clearing for the pitta and my breakfast, I went in to see YS.

His MM was 38.1 or drop of 0.1 gm from yesterday evening. I threw that away and gave new MM to 38.8 gm

YS was at 32.1 gm

I decided to introduce froglets to YS for the calcium and variety and as I got a batch of froggies last night. I think YS mash contained enough calcium.

His recalls were good and solid. I introduce the froglet after I stunned it with the zapper to YS. He accepted the frog. The first session with him was kept short.

In later sessions, the training would be longer. I always observed YS carefully and I would stop the training before he got bored.

At 12 30 pm, the MM was 38.2 gm that I topped up to 38.6 gm
YS was at 33.5 grams.

I then left the apartment for lunch and to go to the gym, returning at 530

The MM was at 38.2 gm and YS was 32.8 gm.

YS was not very interested in training at this time of the day despite his lower weight. After a couple of pure recalls, he refused to do that unless I hold a suri. Better I stop the training.


Note: Normal weight range of shama is 28 - 32 grams
from the information below .

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

or to WWF or other conservation bodies of your choice

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