© MY ODYSSEY WITH BLUE-WINGED PITTAS: PART 3. Instincts and Foraging Behaviour

on 27th September 2013

“Prone to being terrestrial birds, Blue-winged Pittas (Pitta moluccensis) spend most of their time hopping on ground, foraging in between intermittent stops while executing precautionary measures against predators.

“Their hearing instincts are excellent. Any imminent threat of predator’s presence simply sends ground dwellers to squawk in alarm. They may squat low and play dead, scurry to camouflage in dense vegetation or make a quick fleeing exit several metres away. They may also head for a mid-storey branch to perch, often giving a precautionary look over their shoulders and listen… before disappearing into the deep forest.

“The well defined large nostrils and chunky, blackish bill not only serve well to detect odours and probe deeply for worms, grubs underground and pick up insects, but also the pincer ability to collect large quantities of nesting materials and foods with skill and ease (above).

“Foraging includes molluscs found on forest floor. While large snails got crushed on anvil stone surfaces, those of softer shells got crushed in their strong beaks and swallowed. A couple of blurry action shots attached (above).

“Let’s visit a probable male Blue-winged Pitta prospecting at his favourite, foraging site on a 10th April 2013 morning.

“A decayed oil-palm stump seemed to show good prospects while a fallen palm branch stood in the way. Here, the foraging bird wondered how he was to negotiate the limbo rod (left).

“Unaware of my presence on higher ground, the forager successfully made his way into crater of rotted oil-palm stump, where fallen and decayed foliages had collected in an area of undergrowths of mixed deciduous trees (left).

“A video recording was made to depict the colourful bird profusely casting decayed foliages – like a magician sending leaves flying into the air, to expose the damp, earth worm embedded, dark soil hidden underneath. ‘Accadabra! Accadabra!’

“Here are some of the extracted images and likely to be the closest (Approx.10metres away, Fieldscope 30x magnification, no camera zoom) opportunity photos made possible (below: left to right)..

“While courting Blue-winged Pittas don’t possess iridescent spots/patches to shimmer, nor have feathered extensions to tickle or hypnotise their partners with, they appear to have rather similar discarding actions of some male Birds Of Paradise species.

“For comparison, here is a disappointing, hand-shot male Wilson’s Bird of Paradise (Cicinnurus respublica) of Papua. The acrobat was observed in a small window of opportunity, clearing court off leaves litter prior to a ritual courtship performance, to lure, to mesmerise and to win the approval of females (below left).

“In the case of this probable male Blue-winged Pitta, he was more interested to forage earthworms to feed own self (above right).

“It was observed, the cautious bird did not linger in a spot whilst foraging in the crater, but made several short trips in between to avoid being predated.

“Soon, the breeder will be foraging to feed its young too. Perhaps… prior to that, earthworms were included in his gift list of love offerings in Pitta courtship. Who knows… such observation is yet to be documented.

“Having eaten his fill, with heavily soiled mandibles, this secretive bird stayed on to provide another opportunity of further observation (left).

“Do join me again behind the scene to read next episode article – ‘Preening-N-Poo’ of the Blue-winged Pitta coming soon.”

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Penang, Malaysia
18th September 2013

Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund

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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