Amazing Pittas of Kuala Lumpur

Pittas are small short-tailed, multi-coloured ground-dwelling birds and a visual treat to encounter. General information on the pittas can be found here.

In this region, Alfred Russell Wallace (1869) used the distribution of pittas in nearby Sumatra to discuss problems in palaeobiogeography, noting the discovery on the small rocky island of Banca of "two new ground thrushes of the genus Pitta, closely allied to, but quite distinct from, two other species inhabiting both Sumatra and Borneo, and which did not perceptibly differ in these large and widely separated islands. This is just as if the Isle of Man possessed a peculiar species of thrush and blackbird, distinct from the birds which are common to England and Ireland." The Malay Archipelago, Chapter 9.

In and around Kuala Lumpur there are three species of pitta to be found; the mangrove pitta, blue-winged pitta and the hooded pitta.

I had met the mangrove pitta (Pitta megarhyncha) this June on Pulau Indah, near the port of Klang. Here below is a photo showing the bird hunting for small invertebrates in the coastal mud. Larger crabs watched on as it foraged. The Mangrove Pitta is listed as Near Threatened on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to pressure on their coastal mangrove forest habitat and also poaching.

Mangrove pitta on Pulau Indah.

Yesterday, 30th December, on the last outing to search for wild things in 2017, I met the blue-winged and hooded pittas. Each has a territory in different parts of Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam. Even when the territory of one of these is known, much patience is needed to be able to observe the bird. After a couple of hours of watching, with only a lively pair of dark-necked tailorbirds and a pair of olive-winged bulbuls to distract, a blue-winged pitta (Pitta moluccensis) finally emerged. It's a very similar bird to the mangrove pitta, but with a much smaller beak (compare the photograph below with the mangrove pitta above).

This is a blue-winged pitta at the Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam. It's very similar in appearance to the mangrove pitta, but has a shorter beak.

In another part of the park we spent some time watching for a different species, the hooded pitta (Pitta sordida). Again patience was required. After some time, we noticed that we were being watched from the undergrowth, a pair of dark beady eyes, brown cap, a plump green body, blue streaks on the wings and a red belly, all balanced on two twig-like legs.

This hooded pitta, also at the Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam, watched us from the undergrowth. 

Here it is out in the open.

and again, a beautiful creature.

A GoogleEarth view of Kuala Lumpur showing the locations of Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam, Pulau Indah and KLCC (where civets can be observed at night).


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