The elusive mangrove pitta

posted in: Species | 1


The emerging Mangrove Pitta (Pitta megarhyncha) of this habitat heralds news of good birding days ahead for Ayer Itam Dalam, Butterworth but… for a very limited time only for bird watchers (left).

The ability to walk the newly constructed boardwalk of chengal wood was a comforting thought, though the overall workmanship is shoddy and the length of the boardwalk severely compromised with ongoing construction of 2 roads cutting through the forest reserve. One veteran birder estimated loss of the forest reserve and original length of boardwalk to be about 80 % to development (below).


The elusive Mangrove Pitta (Pitta megarhyncha) is often talked about but seldom seen and extremely camera shy. This species has to be the signature bird of the habitat closest to me, and I am adamant to see it (below).

I teamed up with a birding pal and made our way snaking through Ayer Itam Village. We missed the correct turn and ended up helping to level the earthed road still under construction instead. By coincidence or divine intervention, our vehicle came to a grinding halt at the entrance of the designated board walk.

At 8 am, we were ready for our ‘C.S.I.’ walk. I took the lead with my 10×42 binoculars and cat walked stealthily along the board walk.


I took to a squatting position and searched the forest floor and within 2 minutes, heard the rustle of dead foliage coming from my left direction. A quick response led me to this elusive bird that was foraging on the ground unaware of our presence.

The Pitta continued leisurely on its walk and disappeared behind the edge of the Nipah grove before any full clear view of the bird could be had.


Observation of the bird in semi concealed position was had for about 5minutes before the Mangrove Pitta took off with nesting material.

A year later, this feathered friend surprised me by flying in and posed 15 feet from my scope producing a trembling, too close a shot of this elusive bird (right).

Was it the same bird seen before or was it her fledgling that grew up?

Submitted by: DAISY O’NEILL (Avian Writer), PENANG, MALAYSIA.


One Response

  1. We have red-tailed hawks in our yard, but they’re usually way up at the top of the trees. Great photo! One of my garndson’s favorite books is Bird Songs, by Les Beletsky, with the audio bird songs. To keep it from being too overwhelming (250 songs), he has decided he just wants to hear the owls and the hawks.


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