August 2007 — Blue-winged Pitta

BY BILQIS HIJJAS

Within the last week, we have had a number of sightings of a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensisin the Taman Sari area next to the main house. We witnessed the pitta at midday and in the evening industriously hunting for worms which it found plentiful in the exposed earth of the vegetable beds in the Taman Sari. Quite large and beautifully coloured with iridescent blue wings, the pitta was wary, but not skittish. Several times it hopped confidently across the open paths in search of food. When alarmed, it flew up into the nutmeg trees and waited for the commotion to die down before returning to the hunt.

According to Allen Jeyarajasingam’s field guide, Blue-winged Pittas are winter migrants from the northern hemisphere, resident only on Langkawi and in Kedah in Peninsula Malaysia. However, members of the Malaysian Nature Society’s Bird Group hypothesise that the pitta may be increasing its breeding range further south on the Peninsula due to climate change. They also advised us that if the pitta is seen with a beak full of worms, it may be one of a breeding pair feeding its young in a nest nearby. We’ll keep a lookout!

Addendum: On 26 August, a pair of pittas was spotted in the back area of Rimbun Dahan. They were behaving excitedly, perched on high branches and uttering a single call one after the other — even with a beak full of worms — accompanied by spasmodic wing flaps. Were they trying to lure us away from their nest?