Papuan Pitta

An extract from my forthcoming New Guinea Field Guide

Papuan Pitta Erythropitta macklotii
Uncommon resident (NG)
L 17 cm. Six subspecies in region in 3 groups: Papuan Pitta mack- lotii bright orange-rufous nape, no pale blue on head, variable black breast band (W and S NG including W Papuan Is, Yapen and Aru Is); digglesi presumed winter migrant from Cape York, in NE Australia (S NG); oblita darker crown and hindneck (SE NG); loriae (extreme SE PNG); Habenicht’s Pitta: habenichti brighter on nape (N NG east
to Astrolabe Bay); D’Entrecasteaux Pitta: finschii blue upperparts and breastband (D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago). Inhabits lowland
and hill forest and secondary regrowth throughout mainland except for Trans-Fly savannas, from sea-level to 1200 m, most frequent in lowlands and hills. Some local wandering in dry season or drought. Shy and unobtrusive when foraging on ground; more confiding when calling from high perch. ID Striking multicoloured pitta; sexes similar, F slightly duller. Ad has shining sky-blue upper breast, variable
black breastband, and orange-red lower breast to undertail-coverts; brownish head and throat with orange-rufous cap and hindneck, shining green mantle and shining dark blue wing-coverts. In flight, shows small white central spot on the dark brown primaries and blue rump and uppertail. Iris dark brown to red-brown, bill olive to dark bluish-grey, legs and feet dark brown to pinkish-slaty. Imm buffy brown with paler underparts, creamy lower throat, dull blue on rump and tail, orange-red on bill; soon shows some green, blue and red. Voc Territorial call of macklotii in mainland NG a low, tentative, tremulous double whistle, the first note ascending, then a descend- ing second, “croooo, croooo”, taking 2–3 seconds, and repeated at 8–30-second intervals, sometimes for long periods; occasionally gives third or fourth note similar to the second, or just a single note. Alarm call a strident “ke-ah”. Calls, especially in early morning, from branches in subcanopy and sometimes from ground or logs; more often heard than seen. Does not call at night. SS Adult distinctive. Juv differs from juv Eastern Hooded Pitta in buffy-brown head, patterned throat, paler plumage, and soon develops blue on upperparts. TN Formerly placed in the genus Pitta. Form digglesi often synonymized with macklotii. Formerly considered conspecific with Philippine Pitta (E. erythrogaster). In recent molecular study, the populations herein comprising present species were divided into three distinct species: macklotii, with races digglesi and loriae (with possible races aruen- sis and kuehni included in nominate macklotii, and oblita in loriae); habenichti; and finschii. Arrangement here follows morphological analysis for HBW–BL Checklist that supports distinctiveness of present species, and resurrects race oblita; it finds habenichti weakly and finschii fairly strongly distinct (latter most closely allied to loriae). Race digglesi (yorkii is a synonym) appears weakly marked and its validity needs further study. AN Blue-breasted Pitta.

Phil Gregory>
ornithological writer/tour leader/tour facilitator
Field Guides / Sicklebill Safaris / Cassowary House / Cassowary Tours
PO Box 387
QLD 4881

Ph: +61 7 40 937 318

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