“A better chance of sighting visiting Blue-winged Pittas (Pitta moluccensis) in Peninsular Malaysia is sometime between April and August – during their breeding season, when they are most vocal. As common winter visitor and passage migrant, the 18-20.5cm bird takes on an annual, night flying exodus, ranging from its breeding grounds of SW China to most South East Asian countries. Once a while, documented vagrants do show up heading towards the northern continent of Australia.
“Documentation on courtship behaviour and copulation of Blue-winged Pittas is under recorded.
“To add, I can confirm a breeding pair seen in a chase on damp, forest floor at forest edge late April 2013.
The same pair was again spotted two days later, perched looking at each other about 20cm apart on a fallen, rotted palm log.
“Unfortunately one of them, suspected to be the extremely skittish and shy male, took flight immediately upon my approach. While his partner was left to scramble into hiding, I stood to recover from a missed opportunity and composure, having been startled by the supposedly male.
“Territorial calls especially of breeding males are loud and clear. Usually, the call duration is long enough to determine bird’s location-mainly on forest floor or on lower/ mid-storey tree perch.
“Exception to the rule does apply as one was witnessed calling fervently from a tall tree at Cat Tien N.Park, Vietnam in 17th April 2012. However, to get the bird to co-operate for good views is something else (left).
“A willing female would announce her presence in the vicinity by responding to the incessant calls of male. Courtship calling generally continues for several days and grinds to a sudden halt- indicating perhaps the birds have eventually paired up or a wane of interest.
“I had the opportunity of observing same pair foraging together after pairing up. Both then eloped mysteriously and disappeared from sight completely; suggesting not necessarily nest building gets carried out in same vicinity where pair first rendezvous in their playground.
“On a separate observation, I came across a bird in April 2013 prospecting a new foraging area, unknown to have had previous pitta sighting records in mainland Penang P. Malaysia.
“During the breeding phase of Blue-winged Pittas, their plumage colours are at their most radiant – wearing a deep glow of orangey chest-belly front and with striking vermillion red belly radiating to the vent. Their G-spots perhaps… serve as focus point for partners to admire each other (below left).
“An opportunity to showcase the rear view is not to be missed to emphasize the harlequin features of this ground dweller that favours the bird’s advantage over predatory detection (above right).
“Visualise a Blue-winged Pitta in crouched and play dead position. The plumage colour of black and Verditer green and blue on its back, earthy tones of buff on head and flanks, blends well with its habitat surroundings, camouflaging the ground dweller exceedingly well.
“It is time to take a quick peep into the intimate lives of a pair of Blue-winged Pitta, to watch at good distance away, some parenting moments these Pittas have provided and to do so with least disturbance possible.
“Do join me in Part 7 on how I had to make and observe a treaty pledged to the parenting pair before being allowed entry into their secret world.
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
29th September 2013
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund