Friday, March 29, 2013

Indian Pitta


     The Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura) is a medium-sized passerine bird. It breeds mainly in the sub-Himalayas and winters in southern India and Sri Lanka. These birds are found in thick undergrowth and are often more easily detected by their calls.The Indian Pitta is a small stubby-tailed bird that is mostly seen on the floor of forests or under dense undergrowth, foraging on insects in leaf litter. It has long, strong legs, a very short tail and stout bill, with a buff coloured crown stripe, black coronal stripes, a thick black eye stripe and white throat and neck. The upperparts are green, with a blue tail, the underparts buff, with bright red on the lower belly and vent. The bird normally hops on the ground to forage and has been known to get trapped in ground traps meant for small mammals. 

     It has been suggested that the width of the coronal stripe may differ in the sexes.It is more often heard than seen and has a distinctive loud two-note whistle wheeet-tieu or wieet-pyou or sometimes, a triple note hh-wit-wiyu. They have a habit of calling once or twice, often with neighbouring individuals joining in, at dawn or dusk leading to their common name of "Six-O-Clock" bird in Tamil. When calling the head is thrown back and the bill is pointed upwards.Pittas are among the few Old World suboscine birds. The Indian Pitta is the basal member of a distinct clade that includes many of the Oriental species.[ It forms a superspecies with the Fairy Pitta (P. nympha), Mangrove Pitta (P. megarhyncha) and Blue-winged Pitta (P. moluccensis).

     The name Pitta comes from the Telugu word meaning "small bird".Local names in India are based on the colours and their behaviours such as the time of calling and these includeHindiNaorangPunjabiNauranga (=Nine colours), BengaliShumcha, Cachar: Dao bui yegashiGujaratiNavaranga or HariyoTamilArumani kuruvi (=6-OClock bird), Kathu-alechi(=Wind blown), Thotta kalla; Telugu: Polanki pittaPonnangi pittaMalayalamKaviKannadaNavaranga and SinhaleseAvichchiya.The Sinhalese interpretation of its call is that the bird is complaining about the theft of its dress by a peacock: “Evith giya, evith giya, ayith kiyannam, methe budun buduwana vita ayith kiyannam,” which translates as: “Came and went! Came and went! I’ll still be complaining when the next Buddha comes! I’ll still be complaining!”.

Behavior, feeding and habitat

     Indian Pittas breed mainly in the Himalayan foothills from northern Pakistan in the west (Margalla hills)  to at least Nepal and possibly up to Sikkim in the east. They also breed in the hills of central India and in the Western Ghats south to Karnataka. They migrate to all parts of peninsular India and Sri Lanka in winter. Exhausted birds may turn up inside homes. 

     They are rare in the drier regions of India. Indian Pittas roost in trees.Their seasonal movements associated with the rains have not been well studied. They breed during the south-west monsoon from June to August, with peaks in June in central India, and in July in northern India. The nest is a globular structure with a circular opening on one side built on the ground or on low branches. It is made up of dry leaves and grasses. The clutch is four to five eggs which are very glossy white and spherical with spots and speckles of deep maroon or purple.

     They feed on insects and other small invertebrates that are usually picked up from the ground or leaf litter. They have also been noted to take kitchen food scraps from the ground.Avian malaria parasites have been noted in the species.Five out of thirteen birds in an ectoparasite survey were found to have the tick, Haemaphysalis spinigera.

     This bird was first observed early morning at our backyard, during my routine backyard bird check. I was literally stunned by its appearance, the colours and its beautification which has been done well by nature. It is such a beautiful bird, named after Trogons to be a colourful bird, with 4 to 5 different colouration of its feathers. Later I saw this bird quite a lot of times at the same place in the evenings, untill dark when it disappeared. It swiftly flies to a nearby area when percieving a threat, from where it observes and reappears again. Though its call is a renowned one, I observed its silence more than any calls, as it was busy feeding on millipedes and earthworms from the ground and it preferred a wet and moist soil area of our backyard, which was mostly undisturbed by anybody. This was a Birthday gift to me, sent by Mother Nature, though it started appearing a day after my birthday, still it made me more happier than ever to observe, understand and frame it in my camera. I have used my Canon EOS 7D SLR with Canon EF 300mm F4L IS USM lens and Tamron 1.4x extender and two of these shots were difficultly hand-held in low evening lights @ 1/20th of a second, with ISO 1600, which was my new hand-holding record with all full frame images, with almost minimal cropping. I have clicked upto 635 images of this Indian Pitta during this appearance, and here are some of them presented from my archives.

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