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Discover the Vibrant World of the Black-faced Pitta: Behaviors Plumages and Threats

Birds are one of the most fascinating creatures that exist in nature. They come in all sizes and colors, possessing a variety of unique features that make them stand out from one another.

The black-faced pitta is one such bird that is a sight to behold. The scientific name for this species of bird is Pitta anerythra.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the Black-faced Pitta as we examine its identification, field identification, plumages, and molts.


The Black-faced Pitta is a small, brightly colored bird. It has an eye-catching combination of black, blue, yellow, and crimson colors.

The male and female birds have almost identical features, which can make it difficult to differentiate them. However, there are a few subtle differences that you can look out for.

The males have a slightly larger bill, while females have a slightly darker plumage. Field


The black-faced pitta is generally found in the forest undergrowth and is distributed throughout Southeast Asia.

If you are lucky enough to spot one in the wild, there are some key features to look out for that will help you with its identification. The bird has a black face with a blue patch on its side, a yellow belly, and a crimson patch on its lower back.

This combination of colors makes it almost impossible to mistake for any other bird species.

Similar Species

The black-faced pitta is often confused with other species of pitta birds. One such species is the Blue-winged Pitta, which is found in similar habitats and has similar coloring.

However, the Blue-winged Pitta has a distinctive blue band across its wings and a thinner, more pointed bill.


Like many birds, the black-faced pitta has multiple plumages. It goes through several molts during its lifetime, with each molt marking a different phase of its life.

The bird’s juvenile plumage is dull brown with an orange belly, and as it matures, the colors become much more vibrant. The breeding plumage of the black-faced pitta is the most stunning.

The male and female birds will both have bright colors that help them attract a mate.


The black-faced pitta goes through several molts in its lifetime, with one of the most significant molts occurring before the breeding season. During the pre-breeding molt, the bird sheds its old feathers and grows new ones that are much brighter and more vibrant in color.


In conclusion, the black-faced pitta is a captivating bird that is hard to miss due to its vibrant colors. Its unique features make it stand out from other species of pitta birds.

If you are lucky enough to spot one in the wild, take your time to observe and appreciate this remarkable bird’s beauty. The black-faced pitta is a great example of the diversity of bird species that exist in the world, and we hope that this article has helped you understand and appreciate them even more.

Systematics History

The Black-faced Pitta (Pitta anerythra) is a bird species belonging to the Pittidae family, which comprises of about 40 species distributed throughout the Old World tropics. The Black-faced Pitta is a species that has undergone significant taxonomic revisions over time, reflecting the lack of consensus among researchers on its systematics history.

Geographic Variation

The Black-faced Pitta has a wide distribution range, covering Southeast Asia and parts of Indonesia. The bird’s range extends from the east coast of Thailand southwards along the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, across Java, Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa islands in Indonesia.

The species occupies several habitats within its range, including lowland rainforests, secondary forests, mangroves, and occasionally, scrub and woodland areas.


The Black-faced Pitta exhibits considerable geographic variation within its range. Its subspecies have been subject to ongoing revisions over time, with the number of subspecies varying from four to as many as 12, depending on the systematic source.

The differences among the various subspecies are primarily determined by the birds’ coloration patterns and their morphology. Among the primary recognized Black-faced Pitta subspecies is the nominate anerythra found in Southern Thailand, N.

Malaya, and the Riau Archipelago. This subspecies is mostly black, with dark blue wings and a blue rump.

The subspecies mariae found in Sumatra is mostly black with a faint greenish tinge on the wings and belly. The subspecies natunensis, found in the Natuna Islands off the western coast of Borneo, is mostly black with pale blue wings and a yellowish-green rump.

The subspecies lucasanus is found within the Philippine Islands and ranges from an almost entirely black bird to a pale, greyish bird.

Related Species

The Black-faced Pitta has been the subject of some confusion, given that the genus Pitta includes several species that exhibit similar coloration patterns. The bird’s closest relative is believed to be the Bornean banded pitta (Hydrornis schwaneri), a bird species widely distributed throughout Borneo, Sumatra, and Peninsular Malaysia.

The Bornean Banded Pitta has a brownish-black, pale-yellow, and blue feather pattern similar to the Black-faced Pitta.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Over the years, the Black-faced Pitta’s distribution range has undergone significant changes due to habitat loss and fragmentation caused mainly by forest exploitation activities for agriculture and land development. Previously, the species occurred in a discontinuous range extending from Southern Thailand, where it was recorded from rubber and oil palm plantations and logged forests, to the Sunda Shelf, where it was found in lowland primary forest and secondary vegetation.

The historical decline in the Black-faced Pitta’s distribution had been masked in part by its elusive nature, making it challenging to detect. However, the bird’s decline has been increasingly highlighted over the last few decades, especially in areas where habitat fragmentation has been substantial, such as Sumatra and Java.

In Sumatra, the bird’s range has been significantly reduced from historical estimates, with populations confined to small scattered patches in the central and southern parts of the island. In Java, the Black-faced Pitta’s decline around the island’s coastline has been attributed to the conversion of lowland rainforest into agriculture, which has severely impacted the species’ distribution.


In conclusion, studies focusing on the Black-faced Pitta’s systematics history have consistently highlighted the bird’s complex geographic variation and lack of consensus among researchers on its taxonomic revisions. While some sources have recognized variations in subspecies, others have suggested a unified recognition of all populations.

In addition, the Black-faced Pitta’s distribution range has significantly declined over the years due to habitat fragmentation caused by human activities such as agricultural expansion, logging, and infrastructure development. The conservation of the Black-faced Pitta species requires a comprehensive approach, including habitat conservation, rehabilitation, and protection to prevent the species from becoming extinct.


The Black-faced Pitta is a species of tropical and subtropical birds that inhabit different types of forests and vegetation. As a generalist species, the bird is adaptable in diverse habitats, including primary and secondary forests, mangroves, and scrublands.

They can also occupy highly modified habitats such as rubber and oil palm plantations, rural gardens, and city parks. The species’ preference for habitats with thick undergrowth, such as lowland rainforests, has led to its decline where forest areas have been extensively degraded for human activities such as logging, agriculture, and human settlement.

Movements and Migration

The Black-faced Pitta is a non-migratory species, meaning it does not make long-distance movements such as migrating between breeding and non-breeding grounds. Instead, the bird undergoes local movements within its habitat range, particularly in response to seasonal and daily environmental changes.

Within the breeding season, the birds carry out local movements within their breeding territories. The breeding season occurs during the dry season, with eggs laid and chicks hatching from March to August.

Moving to breeding territories helps the birds acquire sufficient resources such as food, nesting materials, and safe nesting sites, reducing competition with other individuals. During the non-breeding season, the birds carry out dispersal movements to exploit resources within the areas they inhabit.

Dispersal movements occur when surplus resources such as fruits are abundant, and the birds venture outside their territories to exploit new areas. These movements help reduce competition within the breeding territory and are fundamental to maintaining population levels in areas with disturbed habitats.

The Black-faced Pitta also carries out daily movements within its habitat range, mainly in search of food. They move through the vegetation by hopping, running, or flying short distances, depending on the terrain’s complexity.

The birds’ movements are facilitated by their agile body, which allows them to move swiftly through the forest understory. Threats to

Habitat and Movements

The primary threat to the Black-faced Pitta’s habitat and movements is habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation.

The bird’s preference for thick undergrowth and the lowland rainforest habitat’s specific needs have led to their decline populations where forest areas have been extensively degraded for human activities such as logging, agriculture, infrastructure development, and human settlement. Fragmentation of habitat has also resulted in a reduction of forest connectivity and an increase in forest edge effects, causing microclimate changes, and increasing exposure of the birds to predators.

These changes have greatly affected the birds’ daily and seasonal movements, reducing the availability of resources, and increasing competition for resources with other birds and animals. Other threats to the Black-faced Pitta include hunting, trapping, and predation by domestic animals such as cats and dogs.

These threats have been reported in areas where the bird’s habitat is in close proximity to human settlements and where people regard the species as a delicacy or cultural item.

Conservation Efforts

The conservation of the Black-faced Pitta requires a comprehensive approach that addresses habitat conservation, rehabilitation, and protection. Land-use planning that considers the species’ habitat requirements and connectivity is critical in habitat conservation.

Protection of high conservation value sites is essential in providing safe nesting sites and foraging grounds. Rehabilitation of degraded habitats through forest enrichment planting, reforestation, and the removal of invasive species can help create suitable habitats for the Black-faced Pitta and other forest-dependant species.

The conservation of the species also requires an effective law enforcement mechanism to regulate hunting, trapping, and trade. Community engagement and participation in conservation activities provide interventions to alleviate the threats facing the species and support environmentally friendly livelihood options.

Environmental education and awareness campaigns focusing on the Black-faced Pitta’s conservation can help reduce human impact on the bird’s habitat and movements.


In conclusion, the Black-faced Pitta displays a non-migratory behavior and conducts local movements within its habitat range to exploit resources and reduce competition. The bird occupies different habitats and ecosystems and is adaptable in diverse habitats, including primary and secondary forests, mangroves, and scrublands.

The Black-faced Pitta is, however, threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation, hunting, trapping, and predation by domestic animals. The conservation of this species requires a comprehensive approach addressing habitat conservation, rehabilitation, and protection, land-use planning, and effective law enforcement.

Community engagement and participation, environmental education, and awareness campaigns focused on the Black-faced Pitta’s conservation can play a crucial role in its conservation.

Diet and Foraging

The Black-faced Pitta’s diet consists of small invertebrates like insects, spiders, snails, and slugs, which they forage from the forest floor. The birds primarily use visual and auditory cues when foraging, searching through leaf litter and the forest floor’s undergrowth to find prey.


The Black-faced Pitta employs a range of techniques when feeding. The bird may use its bill to remove or break the exoskeleton of insects, such as termites or beetles, or tap it rapidly on the ground to stun its prey.

The bird may also insert its long tongue into crevices and use it to extract insects, such as caterpillars or ants, hiding within the bark of trees.


The Black-faced Pitta’s diet varies over the course of its life cycle. During the breeding season, the bird’s diet shifts from a predominantly terrestrial diet to one with a higher proportion of fruits and plant matter.

The shift in diet helps to build up fat reserves and is thought to provide a nutrient source for the developing chicks. Outside of the breeding season, the bird’s diet shifts back to primarily terrestrial insects and small invertebrates.

The bird’s ability to adapt its diet pattern to changes in environmental conditions, such as seasonal fruiting events, is critical to sustaining the species.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Black-faced Pitta inhabits diverse habitats with varying environmental conditions. To cope with these different habitats, the bird has evolved various mechanisms of temperature regulation and metabolic adjustments to maintain optimal body temperatures within its thermoneutral zone.

The Black-faced Pitta is capable of regulating its body temperature through behavioral changes, such as panting, spreading its wings to release heat, or seeking shade in cool areas with dense vegetation. The species also has mechanisms that allow it to adjust its metabolic rate, such as reducing its metabolic rate during prolonged food shortages or increasing it during periods of energy requirement.

Sounds and Vocal



The Black-faced Pitta is a highly vocal species, producing a wide range of vocalizations that vary from high-pitched trills and whistles to low growls. The species’ vocal repertoire includes territorial calls, contact calls, and alarm calls that function in communication, mate attraction, and warning against predators.

The birds’ territorial calls are used to defend their territory against intruders and alert other birds of their presence. The territorial calls are a series of high-pitched notes that gradually increase in speed and pitch, producing a distinctive whistle-like sound.

The species’ contact calls are used to maintain communication between individuals in their breeding territories, with different variations of the calls, depending on the individual and the context. The Black-faced Pitta’s alarm calls are used to warn other individuals of the presence of predators.

The alarm calls are distinctive loud, high-pitched notes, often repeated several times, indicating the level of danger posed by the predator. The Black-faced Pitta’s vocalizations are complex and vary considerably over the birds’ lifespan, depending on factors like age, sex, and social context.

The birds’ vocalizations provide an effective means of communication, enabling them to coordinate their activities and establish social hierarchies within their groups.


In conclusion, the Black-faced Pitta is an adaptable species, capable of adjusting its diet and employing diverse techniques to exploit available resources in its habitat. The bird’s ability to regulate its temperature and metabolic rate enables it to cope with different habitats, temperature regimes, and food availability.

The Black-faced Pitta’s vocalizations provide an effective means of communication within and outside breeding territories, contributing to the bird’s social organization and reducing the likelihood of conflicts or predation. The complex nature of the bird’s vocalizations and their variation over the bird’s lifespan is a subject of ongoing research aimed at understanding the species’ social structures and behavioral ecology.


The Black-faced Pitta displays a range of behaviors that help it thrive in its habitat and cope with the challenges it faces. The bird’s behaviors are shaped by its physiology, ecology, and life history traits.


The Black-faced Pitta’s locomotion is primarily terrestrial, and the bird hops, walks and runs through the forest’s understorey. The bird’s long legs and strong feet enable it to land and navigate through the forest floor’s leaf litter and debris.

The bird’s wings are not well-suited for sustained flight, and the Black-faced Pitta typically flies only short distances between perches. The wings, however, play a crucial role in the bird’s communication, where they are used to signal and establish territorial boundaries.


The Black-faced Pitta’s self-maintenance behaviors include preening, roosting, and bathing. Preening is a critical behavior that helps the bird maintain its feathers’ health and structure, reducing feather wear, and preventing infestation.

Roosting is another behavior that helps the bird restore energy and conserve heat by seeking out a secure location and changing its body position for comfort. Bathing is a behavior observed mainly in juvenile birds and involves the bird immersing itself in water to clean its feathers and remove excess oil or dirt.

The bird may also perform what is called ‘anting,’ a behavior where it rubs ants’ bodies on its feathers, facilitating removal of parasites. Agonictic


The Black-faced Pitta, like other bird species, displays agonistic behavior, which involves aggressive interactions between individuals.

Agonistic behavior is typically associated with competition for critical resources such as food, space, and reproductive opportunities. The Black-faced Pitta’s agonistic behavior includes threats, ritualized displays, and physical aggression.

The birds will often threaten intruders or competitors with vocalizations and aggressive posturing, such as flapping their wings or puffing up their feathers. In extreme cases, birds engage in physical confrontations, such as biting and pecking.



The Black-faced Pitta’s sexual behavior involves mate selection, courtship, and parental care. The birds’ sexual dimorphism is minimal, with little distinction between males and females in their physical appearance or vocalizations.

The Black-faced Pitta typically has a monogamous mating strategy, pairing with a single mate during the breeding season. The

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