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© Observation of Black-headed Pittas Whistling in N. Borneo

on 15th March 2012

“A local endemic of N. Borneo, the Black-headed Pitta (Pitta ussheri) and recently ‘split’ from Garnet Pitta (P. granatina) is also known as the Black and Crimson Pitta (P. ussheri) by Davison.

“I caught up with a late July, breeding pair along a primary forest’s trail. A perched, supposedly male, was whistling alongside a lowland stream (left).

“The whistling call recorded by Frank R. Lambert at AVOCET LINK Reference No. AV#5501 is more prolonged than a P. granatina.

“Whether the elusive, ground-dwelling 15cm bird spotted me, I was not sure; but it definitely gave me some time to observe and to photograph his inflating red belly and bellowed those whistles with mandibles closed (below left).

“By enlarging its belly and showing more of its crimson feathering, may perhaps serve as an added attraction. Somewhat similar to some African tribal males who warrior paint, danced and gestured with their faces and bodies hoping to be ceremoniously handpicked by the females.

“Here is a rear view of the bird showing the inflationary process on inhalation. What a pretty cheer leader this bird would have made (above right).

“As the whistle lost steam in exhalation and dragged to a silence, the belly deflates (below).

“I heard whistling replies on the other side of the gully. While they sounded a bit softer than the supposedly male, I caught up with the responder perched on a low branch, semi-concealed but with head upright, listening to the direction where the supposedly breeding male’s whistles were blowing from (below left).

“A small opportunity was had to photograph the supposedly female whistling back to her suitor with her gape slightly opened (above right).

“I soon found myself in the way of their courtship- standing on the sloped trail between the pair. I decided to back off quickly and played dead wood; giving the suitor the opportunity to fly passed me to meet its mate.

“The pair wasted no time to disappear into the undergrowths making it one of my closest encounters with breeding Pittas in action.

“I wonder if there had been any observation recorded of female birds’ species cat-whistling the males??!!…

“As to quiz their sex gender, ‘who is who…’ next article coming up!”

Appreciation and Thanks to:
Dr Pam Rasmussen and Recordist Frank R. Lambert of AVOCET for permission to reference his recording.

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Optics used: Fieldscope ED82+30x+Camera P3. Binoculars 8×32
Copyright article and copy images:
Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund

Readers kindly note: The use of playback electronic recordings of bird calls to entice birds into the open is not practiced in any of my observations and in bird-photography.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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