Our Rainbow Pitta

The Rainbow Pitta. (Pitta iris)

Photographs by Land for Wildlife Member Jacinda Brown

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So It’s more than half way through Bird Week and we thought we would profile a favourite bird. We chose The Rainbow Pitta.

Why? It is a beautiful bird with great colouring and only found in The Top End of The Territory and Kimberley regions. It depends completely on Monsoon forest, which in these regions are restricted to very small patches where springs occur, or by rivers. It is the only Pitta in Australia that does not occur also in Asia and New Guinea.

This little bird is territorial, it often stays alone or in a pair in the same patch of forest year after year and its food source is mainly earthworms. Earthworms are more plentiful in the wet season when the Pitta breeds, laying its eggs between October and February in a domed shaped nest with a side entrance; these are usually built in the fork of a tree, about 5 metres above the ground.

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Although many patches of Monsoon forest have been cleared or reduced by grassy fires and weeds, many gardens in the suburbs and around houses in the rural area simulate damp forests and often are home to the Pitta, who can be seen foraging for worms on the ground.  It is important to manage any rainforest patches and manage weeds and fires to keep the habitat for many wildlife species, including these delicate birds.  

Information is from Birds of The Darwin region by McCrie and Noske and A Natural Field Guide to Australia’s Top End, by Ian Morris, Di Lucas, Noel Preece and Penny van Oosterzee.

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