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10 Fascinating Facts About the Blue-winged Pitta

The Blue-winged Pitta, also known as Pitta moluccensis, is a charming bird species found in many countries throughout Southeast Asia. Its dazzling blue and green plumage and melodious calls make it a sought-after sighting for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

In this article, we will explore the identification traits of the Blue-winged Pitta, its plumages, and molts. Let’s dive in!

Identification

Identifying the Blue-winged Pitta can be challenging, but the following field identification features will help you distinguish it from other birds:

– The Blue-winged Pitta is a small bird, around 17-20 centimeters in length. – Its upperparts are bright green, with a blue crown, nape, and wings.

– The underparts are a vibrant orange or red. – The bill of the Blue-winged Pitta is slightly curved and black.

– It has a short tail and pinkish-grey legs.

Similar Species

If you’re not careful, you might mistake the Blue-winged Pitta for other similar-looking birds such as the Hooded Pitta, Mangrove Pitta, and Blue-rumped Pitta. However, you can differentiate them by paying attention to the following:

– The Hooded Pitta has a black hood and a green crest, while the Mangrove Pitta is all-black with a yellow belly.

– The Blue-rumped Pitta has a white belly and a blue-rumped back, while the Blue-winged Pitta has a red-orange belly and blue wings.

Plumages

Like many bird species, the Blue-winged Pitta has multiple plumages throughout its lifetime. Here are a few notable ones:

– Juvenile plumage: The juveniles have a duller green upperpart with brownish or yellowish underparts.

The crown and wings are still blue but not as vibrant as the adult. – Adult breeding plumage: During breeding season, the Blue-winged Pitta transforms into a stunning bird with a bright blue crown, nape, and wings.

The underparts are glowing orange or red, depending on the subspecies. – Adult non-breeding plumage: After breeding season, the Blue-winged Pitta molts and gets its non-breeding plumage.

The blue hues of the crown and wings are less vivid, and the underparts are less bright.

Molts

The Blue-winged Pitta goes through two molts in a year – breeding and non-breeding. During the breeding molt, the males grow new feathers to impress females and defend territory.

After breeding, they go through another molt to prepare for migration or conserve energy for the non-breeding season.

Conclusion

Understanding the identification and plumages of the Blue-winged Pitta is crucial for birdwatchers and conservationists alike. These charming birds are vital to the ecosystem and help maintain a healthy balance in their habitats.

If you’d like to learn more about the Blue-winged Pitta or join in on the conservation efforts, check out local birdwatching groups or organizations in Southeast Asia dedicated to protecting these gorgeous birds. of the topic but instead provide a call to action or further sources of information where readers can learn more.

Systematics History

The Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, belongs to the family Pittidae, which is closely related to thrushes, Old World flycatchers, and babblers. The Pittidae family comprises 40 species, spread across four genera, Pitta being the largest.

Taxonomists have debated the placement of the Blue-winged Pitta, with some considering it a subspecies of the Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida, while others suggest the Blue-winged Pitta is more closely related to the Sri Lankan Pitta, Pitta brachyura.

Geographic Variation

The Blue-winged Pitta has a wide distribution range spanning from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Throughout its range, the Blue-winged Pitta shows considerable geographic variation, with some subspecies differing notably in size, plumage color, and vocalizations.

Subspecies

The Blue-winged Pitta has up to 18 recognized subspecies. Here’s a brief overview of some of the notable subspecies:

– P.

m. moluccensis: The nominate subspecies is found in Halmahera, Obi, Buru, and Seram islands in eastern Indonesia.

It has a bright red-brown belly and is the largest subspecies. – P.

m. nympha: This subspecies ranges from southern Thailand and mainland Malaysia to Singapore and Sumatra.

It has a more orange-red belly and is smaller than the nominate subspecies. – P.

m. cyanoptera: Found only in Palawan, the Philippines, this subspecies has a blue-tinged arm but is otherwise similar to P.

m. nympha.

Related Species

The Blue-winged Pitta has many close relatives, including the aforementioned Sri Lankan Pitta and Hooded Pitta. Other closely related pitta species include the Blue-rumped Pitta, Bornean Pitta, and Rusty-naped Pitta.

All of these pitta species share similar characteristics in plumage, vocalizations, and habitat preferences.

Historical Changes in Distribution

The Blue-winged Pitta has experienced a gradual range expansion due to a combination of natural range shifts and human-mediated dispersal. Pitta moluccensis was first described by Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1789.

At that time, it was believed to be confined to the Moluccas and surrounding islands, where most of its subspecies still reside. However, the species soon expanded its range to include the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Peninsular Thailand.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Blue-winged Pitta was considered uncommon in Thailand, and it was not until the mid-twentieth century that birdwatchers began reporting sightings of the bird across the country. In the past few decades, the species has expanded its range even further, with records from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in the early twenty-first century.

Genetic studies have suggested that the population in northeastern India may have been introduced to the region by humans, possibly as a result of the bird trade. Climate change has also played a role in the historical changes in the distribution of the Blue-winged Pitta.

Pitta moluccensis prefers forested habitats, and as these habitats have dwindled, the species has spread to more degraded habitats such as agricultural fields, rubber plantations, and even urban parks. However, these changes in habitat preference may not be sustainable in the long run, as these habitats may not support breeding populations or provide sufficient food resources.

Conclusion

The Blue-winged Pitta’s range has expanded over the years, but the species still faces significant threats from habitat loss and the pet trade. It is essential to continue studying the genetics and ecology of this fascinating bird to understand its conservation needs fully.

Organizations such as the Asian Bird Conservation Network and BirdLife International are working to protect Pitta moluccensis and its habitat throughout Southeast Asia. By supporting these organizations and promoting sustainable land-use practices, we can help ensure that the Blue-winged Pitta remains a cherished species of the region for generations to come.

of the topic but instead provide a call to action or further sources of information where readers can learn more.

Habitat

The Blue-winged Pitta is a forest bird that prefers dense tropical and subtropical forests, including rainforest, deciduous, and evergreen forests. It is often found in the undergrowth of these forests, especially near water streams.

They can also be seen in areas close to human habitation, such as plantations, parks, and gardens, if they meet the requirements of suitable vegetation for nesting, perching, or feeding. Throughout its range, the Blue-winged Pitta occupies several different types of habitats.

For example, in Thailand, it is mostly found in deciduous, semi-evergreen, and evergreen forests, with a preference for secondary forests and forest edges. In Indonesia, it occurs in primary and secondary lowland forests, upland rainforests, and even on the slopes of volcanoes.

In Malaysia, the Blue-winged Pitta is found in both lowland and hill forests, but uncommon in montane forest above 1000 meters.

Movements and Migration

The Blue-winged Pitta is known for its movements and migration patterns. It is a partial migrant that breeds mainly in the northern range of its distribution, and migrates to the southern range for the non-breeding season.

The breeding season varies depending on the location, with the earliest records of breeding occurring in March and April in southern Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia, while in the Philippines, nesting can occur from January to March. Migratory movements of Blue-winged Pitta have only been well-established for a few populations.

Birds breeding in Peninsular Thailand, for example, are thought to move southwards to Singapore and Sumatra for the non-breeding season. On the other hand, birds breeding in the Philippines are known to be short-distance migrants, with movement depending on the local breeding cycle resulting from the variation of rainy and dry seasons.

Some populations of Blue-winged Pitta are known to exhibit altitudinal migration breeding in lower elevation areas during the wet season and moving to higher altitudes when it is dry season. This migration pattern is not entirely understood and may depend on the food availability or other factors.

The Blue-winged Pitta’s movements are often triggered by food availability and weather conditions. The species is vulnerable to flooding and heavy rains, which can wash away nests and harm adults and juveniles.

During prolonged dry spells, the birds may be forced to migrate in search of food and water.

Conclusion

The Blue-winged Pitta’s habitat requirements and movements have significant implications for its conservation. As tropical forests continue to be affected by deforestation and fragmentation, the Blue-winged Pitta and other forest birds’ survival is threatened.

Effective conservation measures must include protecting and restoring forest habitats, as well as promoting sustainable land-use practices. Understanding the species’ movements and migratory patterns can help conservationists monitor and conserve populations throughout the species’ range.

Birdwatchers and other citizen scientists can contribute to these efforts by sharing their sightings and participating in local bird monitoring programs. Organizations such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the International Union for Conservation of Nature offer resources and opportunities to get involved in bird conservation efforts.

of the topic but instead provide a call to action or further sources of information where readers can learn more.

Diet and Foraging

The Blue-winged Pitta is an insectivore, meaning it feeds primarily on insects such as crickets, caterpillars, beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, and ants. It forages on the ground, hopping and searching through leaf litter and other debris for prey with its curved bill.

The Blue-winged Pitta uses its sharp bill and strong neck muscles to dig into the soil and leaf litter for insects, extracting them with its tongue. It also catches insects in mid-air, sometimes hovering in pursuit of its prey.

Feeding

The Blue-winged Pitta’s feeding behavior is unique and critical to its survival. It forages for food individually or as a pair, and sometimes in small groups.

Feeding territory sizes vary from 900 to 2400 square meters, with birds defending their territories by calling and displaying, especially during breeding season.

Diet

The Blue-winged Pitta’s diet varies depending on its location and what is available in the environment. In Malaysia and Thailand, the Blue-winged Pitta feeds mainly on beetles, crickets, and butterflies, while in Singapore, it prefers ants, termites and other small arthropods.

In the Philippines, its diet consists of beetles, ants, spiders, and centipedes. Overall, the Blue-winged Pitta is a generalist feeder, resulting in flexibility in diet and adapts to diverse environments.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Blue-winged Pitta has a high metabolic rate, which is necessary for its foraging behavior. The species regulates its body temperature to maintain its high metabolism, and it is very responsive to temperature changes.

During hot weather or after intense physical activity, the Blue-winged Pitta opens its beak and pant to release heat, thus reducing its body temperature. Similarly, during cold or wet weather, the bird will fluff its feathers and huddle to conserve heat.

By regulating its temperature, the Blue-winged Pitta is better able to cope with a range of environmental conditions.

Sounds and Vocal

Behavior

The Blue-winged Pitta is a vocal bird, with a variety of calls, whistles, and songs. It uses its vocalizations to communicate with its mate, defend its territory, and attract a mate during the breeding season.

The Blue-winged Pitta’s vocalizations can be heard throughout the day, but they are most active during the early morning and late afternoon.

Vocalization

The Blue-winged Pitta has a distinctive and melodious call that is often described as a three or four-note whistle. The call is a series of ascending notes starting with a low whistle, followed by two or three higher-pitched whistles.

Each note lasts around 0.15 seconds, and the entire call lasts two to six seconds. Males use this call to advertise their territory to potential mates and competitors, and to communicate with their mate.

Females may also use a similar call, but their call note is less distinct and not as loud. The Blue-winged Pitta also makes other vocalizations, including a scolding call, alarm call, and territorial call.

The scolding call is a high-pitched, short note that is used to warn other birds of potential predators or threats. The alarm call is a loud, harsh note that can alert other birds in the area to danger.

The territorial call is a single, loud note, which is used to defend its territory from other birds.

Conclusion

The Blue-winged Pitta’s diet, foraging behavior, and vocalizations are essential factors in the species’ survival and reproduction. Understanding these characteristics can aid in their conservation and management, particularly in protecting their habitats.

To learn more about the Blue-winged Pitta and contribute to their conservation, participate in local birdwatching groups, monitor their populations, and support organizations focused on bird conservation efforts. Some organizations include BirdLife International, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

of the topic but instead provide a call to action or further sources of information where readers can learn more.

Behavior

The Blue-winged Pitta is a fascinating bird species, with a diverse range of behaviors, including locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior.

Locomotion

The Blue-winged Pitta is a ground-dwelling bird and spends most of its time hopping and walking on the forest floor. It has a short, powerful tail and strong legs that allow it to move quickly on the ground.

The bird also flies short distances, up to 50 meters, with a rapid wingbeat and short, gliding flight patterns.

Self-Maintenance

Like most bird species, the Blue-winged Pitta spends much of its time preening and maintaining its feathers. It uses its bill to remove dust, dirt, and parasites from its feathers.

The bird also takes dust baths, which helps to clean its feathers and rid itself of any parasites. Agonistic

Behavior

During breeding season, Blue-winged Pittas exhibit agonistic behavior, particularly with other Blue-winged Pittas of the same sex.

This agonistic behavior includes displays and vocalizations meant to intimidate rivals for mating privileges or territory. The displays include facing each other, puffing up feathers, and moving in a circular pattern.

These displays may end up in short bouts of physical violence, although fights are usually settled quickly. Sexual

Behavior

The Blue-winged Pitta exhibits a monogamous breeding behavior, with pairs forming before or early in the breeding season.

The males display in front of their potential mates to attract them, and the pair performs courtship dances, such as wing-waving and mutual preening. After successful courtship, the female Blue-winged Pitta will lay eggs.

Breeding

The Blue-winged Pitta breeds in the early part of the rainy season across its range.

Breeding starts in January in the Philippines, as early as March or April in mainland Southeast Asia, and in July or August in Australia.

During the breeding season, the male calls frequently to defend his territory and communicates with his mate. The Blue-winged Pitta builds its nest on the ground or near the ground in a thick layer of leaf litter or other debris.

The female lays three to six white eggs with reddish-brown spots. Both parents participate equally in incubation duties, sharing shifts of 24-hours, and taking turns to sit on the eggs.

After hatching, the chicks are altricial, meaning they are born without feathers and dependent on their parents for food and protection. Both parents continue to care for the chicks, hunting insects to feed their young until they fledge.

Demography and Populations

There is limited information on the population size and trends of the Blue-winged Pitta. However, the global population is thought to be stable due to the species’ broad range and ability to adapt to different habitats.

Some subspecies are threatened due to habitat loss, trapping, and trade, including P. m.

elegans in Sulawesi and P

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