The pitta season is here again: 1. Baiting

CLARIFICATION: The mealworms were already there when Adrian Tan and friends arrived to photograph the pitta. There is absolutely no suggestion that Adrian was responsible for the mealworms. It was simply mentioned that the mealworms were courtesy of pitta enthusiasts – those who were there earlier. YC Wee, BESG

PittaHd-SBG [AdrianTan]

The Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida cucullata), a rare winter visitor and passage migrant, has arrived in Singapore (above). According to Wang & Hails (2007), it arrives as early as 2nd November and stays until 4th May, peaking around December.

PittaHd-SBG [AdrianTan]

Some of the pittas remain here during the northern winter. Others refuel and continue their journey southwards to Sumatra and Java. This yearly southward migration is to avoid the cold winter of their breeding grounds in the north.

PittaHd-SBG [AdrianTan]

This pitta sub-species is native to the Himalayas, SW China, Indochina, Myanmar and Thailand (Wang & Hails, 2007). It winters in the Malay Peninsular, Singapore, Sumatra and Java.

This is an attractive green bird with a black head and chestnut crown. It forages on the ground for insects and their larvae, and also eats berries. It breeds between February and August, the pair being strongly territorial and build their nest on the ground. For more information, visit this LINK.

“From what we know, pittas are not residents of Singapore, including the Hooded Pitta,” wrote Adrian Tan. “However, as part of its winter migration path, this little chap makes Singapore a pit-stop each year.”

PittaHd-SBG [AdrianTan]

“Without fail, it draws crowds of excited local nature photographers and birdwatchers, who come out in throngs to catch a glimpse of its beautiful and striking colours, characteristic of the pittas,” added Adrian. “So after the afternoon rain today, I joined my friends Freddy Chew and Ric Seet and we were fortunate to squeeze off a few shots as the hungry bird came out from the bushes and hopped around, looking for an afternoon snack!”

And snacks there were aplenty, courtesy of earlier pitta enthusiasts. On a small mound within the Ginger Garden can be seen mealworms (see images above except topmost). Yes, this pitta was being lured by mealworms.

Adrian Tan
9th December 2016

Wang, L.K. & C. J. Hails, 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1-179.

This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behavior through photography and videography to a wider audience.


16 Responses

  1. what effect would the mealworms have on the plants and trees at the botanic gardens?

  2. Many of the trees and plants at SBG are not part of the tropical ecosystem…..what effect would the escapee mealworms have on them…..what do mealworms eat?

    ”I don’t know” is very worrying. Not what is expected of a distinguished prof.

  3. Samuel Tan, please do not behave like an ignoramus and spew stupidity! If the trees in the SBG are not part of the tropical ecosystem they will not be growing there.

  4. is the cactus garden tropical?

    • If the cactus garden is found in the tropics, it is obvious that the garden is “tropical” – I assume by “tropical” you mean “in the tropics”. If you are referring to the cactus species grown in the garden, whether they are tropical or not, don’t you think that would depend on the species planted, as many cacti are from the tropics. So what are you trying to imply?

  5. There is a sign at the SBG hooded pitta site advising the that the red weevil and rhinoceros beetle were and feeling the palms at SBG….how does this gel with BESG’s promotion of the use of mealworms… especially if you don’t know the effects? Is this responsible study of ecology?

  6. Lee Chiu San

    I am prepared to state that mealworms will not survive outdoors in the Singapore environment. I do not breed mealworms, but have been purchasing them from vendors I know well for the past 50 plus years. Once purchased, the mealworms are raised and fattened by me for about two weeks before being fed to my birds.
    Mealworms are not too difficult to care for, but they require a dry environment. Their water intake is low, and can be met in captivity by vegetable leaves and slices of fruit.
    Excessive damp causes them to perish quite quickly. So there is very little danger of mealworms propagating in the soil and eating our tropical plants.

  7. Comments from one who has practical experience… Thanks Chiu San.

  8. Chong Kah Ming

    This series is interesting. So no BESG, BICA or other reader can confirm that the mealworms will not have an effect on local flora? Just hopeful guessing that they will not?…just so that photographs can be taken? If you are introducing an organism which is not ordinarily present in numbers to a habitat, then responsible common sense would require knowledge about their potentially habitat destroying effects.

    Pity that BESG is lowering it’s standards. It used to be a good blog. This is not a study of natural behaviour but a response to human meddling.

  9. Chong Kah Ming, if you had just look at one of the comments above, you would have seen a lengthy writeup by Aviculturist Lee Chiu San who has been using mealworms for more than 50 years to feed his birds. And Chiu San has clearly stated that mealworms cannot survive in our environment.

    Yes, hobbyists have been using mealworms for more than half a century in Singapore without any harm to the ecosystem. I am sure you are not aware of this.

    May I know whether you represent yourself or are you one of a handful of plants representing some once “top dog” group that has stagnated due to lack of far-sighted leadership?

    And for your information our posts are about nature as well as its relationship with the ecosystem at large that include humans.

  10. Superworms are great feeders and yes they are safe to feed. The “Giant superworms” are something completely different, and it’s best to avoid those as they are mealworms treated with hormones to stop their pupating. Some of the pro’s to using Superworms are:-You can keep them at room temperature, don’t need to refrigerate them like mealworms.-They won’t pupate as long as you keep them with other superworms.-They stay alive for a long time, and they are easy to feed. Use oats/wheat bran as their bedding/food. Toss in slices of carrots every other day for moisture & food, and you can keep them for months and months.-They are also meatier than mealworms, so instead of feeding 10 superworms a serving to your gecko, you would only need 1 or 2 superworms.It’s obviously cheaper to buy them bulk online, but before doing that I would suggest buying a smaller cup from your local petstore. First make sure your leopard gecko will take them on, because not all geckos like them. I have a couple picky eaters that won’t take a bite at the superworms.As for how much to feed, chances are your gecko will eat just 1 or 2 per serving. If you buy the medium sized ones, then you may need to feed 2-3. Your gecko will tell you how much they want to eat.


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