Insights To Blue-winged Pittas Part 5

posted in: Nesting | 2

“Previous observations and images suggest excavation of nesting site commenced on 21st May 2014. It was carried out mainly by the female at Itam Dalam Forest Reserve (IDFR).

“Ticky and Tippy, the pair of Blue-winged Pittas (Pitta moluccensis) continued foraging and discreetly they were seen collecting nesting materials at intervals (below left).

“My presence was well tolerated by Ticky- the male. He responded frequently to my whistle calls and at times flew in to check me out (above right).

“Progressively over the next few days, female Tippy while remaining shy, would still show whenever foraging was needed.

“It was observed on 26th May, feathers on her chest and belly had been cleaned; suggesting excavating duties had stopped.

“She was also seen prospecting a discarded mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) that was maggot infested (below left).

“Occasionally, their breeding calls would have the pair met up on a rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) tree branch (above right).

“On 29th May, a fly pass by Ticky with a beakful of nesting material was observed heading from mangrove swamp towards a dark, under storey forest of mixed growth and ground cover.

“Flight patterns by Pitta pair changed to one of urgency and focus, as they took on straight paths.

“When all was quiet, my observation had me waiting under cover for the breeding pair in the heavily mosquito infested forest.

“Soon, Ticky flew in with nesting material, perched and paused for clearance before he disappeared swiftly into base of a decapitated tree of sprouted multiple branches (below left).

“The nest was located under root cover, camouflaged by twigs and withered branch foliages used as roofing exterior (above right).

“As soon as opportunity arose, during their absence, I made haste to reposition my hideout for better monitoring views.

“Female Tippy flew in, made entry into the nest and attended to finishing touches before she flew off (above).

“Ticky followed suit and stood at nest’s entrance momentarily before entering for a chamber inspection (above, below left).

“All observations were carried out undetected by breeding pair at distance no less than twenty feet with binoculars 8×32 and Fieldscope x30 magnification.

“They were executed very briefly and one time only to avoid detection. Continuous swamping by mosquitoes were simply too intolerable also to stay on.

“I am not optimistic at all that Ticky and Tippy would have a successful breeding season this year; considering the many predators – feline and feral cats, monitor lizards and packs of uncontrolled population of Long-tailed Macaques that menace and forage at the Forest Reserve edge of a village (above right).

“The birding choice area and location of nesting site provided easy access. The presence of constant flow of overly keen circuit of bird-photographers would only compromise further, the Pitta pair’s chance if any, to fledge their chicks.

“I returned seventy-two hours later and found…

“Join Avian Writer to read the finale Part6 episode!”

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Penang, Malaysia
29th August 2014

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

2 Responses

  1. Lee Chiu San

    Congratulations Daisy, on the most comprehensive studies of Blue Winged Pittas that I have ever come across. I have been on jungle nature walks for close to 60 years, and have been involved with aviculture for about 50. I also have more than the average bird-keeper’s experience with this species in captivity – but, would you believe, I have never, never seen any Pitta in the wild!

    Almost all of the several dozen that passed through my hands either wandered into houses, crashed into glass panes, or were purchased from bird shops – where the proprietors usually told me that the birds had been obtained under accidental circumstances similar to what I described.

    Most of the encounters took place at night, the time when some birds migrate. Yes, we do know that Pittas carry out local and regional migrations, and they are particularly vulnerable then.

    I have done quite a bit of wildlife photography over the years, and appreciate that the effort you put in far surpasses anything that I have ever attempted for any book, brochure or published article.

    Your ability to seek them out, and your patience in waiting to observe their natural behaviour is astounding.

    What I am particularly glad of is your confirmation of my experience that earthworms make up a large proportion of the Blue Winged Pitta’s diet. Given a choice of foods (including mealworms) most Pittas home in on the earthworms.

    I have to close this note with a caution. Pittas are notoriously bad subjects for aviculture. From the various reports I have read in avicultural books and magazines, they are very difficult to maintain except in very large aviaries with earthen floors and a generous covering of soft mulch or leaf litter. Spending any extended period of time on hard flooring, such as cement, will result in foot infections. And most of those reports were written with emphasis on the Hooded Pitta, which seems to take to captive conditions relatively better than the rest of the genus, and is frequently found in the bird trade.

    The approximately half a condensed-milk tin of live worms that the average Pitta requires daily is something that most Singaporeans would be unable to provide. I was fortunate to have lived on my uncle’s fruit tree estate in my younger, Pitta-keeping days. Estates, like other forms of wildlife, are on the verge of extinction in Singapore.

    The best I can advise to anyone who comes across a dazed Pitta that has either lost its way or crashed into a picture window is to keep it in a relatively dark and quiet cage, feed it for a day or two until it recovers strength, then take it to a stretch of bushland and bid it bon voyage.

    And hopefully, it will encounter Daisy, who will tell us about the next chapter in its odyssey.

  2. Daisy O'Neill

    Hi Chiu San,

    I am delighted to hear from you and your sharing experiences with Pittas.
    It is readers like you who made it all so worthwhile to continue writing and sharing my observations and without doubt, Pittas are one of my favourite and passionate subjects.

    Always learning always observing.

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