“Pitta identification: Who is who?
“My first sighting of Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) for 2014 came on 14th March at Itam Dalam Forest Reserve (IDFR) Province Wellesley (Seberang Perai), Penang, Peninsular Malaysia.
“My observations had me not only to discern bird differences from one to another, but also the challenging task of differentiating their sexes. There were no less than four, fairly common winter breeding visitors and passage Peninsular Malaysia migrants that flew in to forage at this riverside, mixed mangrove forest reserve. Three birds were identified.
“Pitta-1 with three images is shown here (above and left).
“The bird was observed foraging at rubbish dump, hopping and skirting around car park area, prospecting areas of fallen foliages and ground vegetation that harboured potential vermin and insects.
“Readers may want to take special note of Pitta’s grey eyelids as a useful reference to differentiate individual identification.
“Pitta-1’s upper eyelid crescents irregularly to co-joint a smooth, horizontal lower eyelid, met at posterior bare parts aspect of the eye. An enlarged view of both head sides of same bird is shown below.
“The presence of pinkish remnant gape suggests Pitta No.1 to be a first winter, near adult visitor.
“My next observation visit would only be six weeks later- after my birding stint in Indochina.
“A morning visit on 5th May saw a handsome adult, breeding male prospecting at car park site. Enlarged facial views of same bird for comparison with Pitta-1 shows a clean, smooth, crescent upper eyelid co-joint with a jagged lower eyelid, dagger like bare skin parts at posterior aspect of eye. I identified this bird to be Pitta-2 (above and below).
“The next two consecutive days saw Pitta-2 having a field day foraging juicy earthworms at the car park.(left and below).
“Pitta-3 was shy but eventually showed. The car park with rich pickings was simply irresistible to ignore.
…some jazzed up with props too (below)!
“I can also confirm Pitta-3 to be an adult female based on this opportunity image in plumage comparison (below).
“Enlarged details show sharp, clean dagger like bare skin parts where grey upper and lower eyelids co-joint at posterior of the eyes (below).
“Breeding period peaked during month of May when birds were vocal. The presence of several Blue-winged Pittas was confirmed by sightings together with frequent calls of other potential partners within the same vicinity.
“Do join me in Part 3 to view more images of their ground dwelling habits and activities and eventual pairing up and nest building activities at IDFR.
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
20th July 2014
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund