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  • Aditya Singh

The Iridescent Indian Pitta

This is a bird with vivid colors and aptly the local name of this bird means ‘nine colors’.

Showing its colors…

This bird has a very short tail and still, this is a migratory bird. In general, from what I have seen is that in birds, the tail is very important for steering, control and landing. However, this bird manages to fly long distances with such a small tail.


This multicoloured bird is mainly green with a beige underside with a white throat. The face has a black eye mask lined with white and a black crown stripe. The beak is thickish and is varies in colour from peachy pink to all black. They have bright aqua shoulder patches. The short tail is multicoloued with three different shades of blue. The upper part of the tail is aqua, the middle is navy blue and the tip is marine blue. The undertail has a bright red patch which extends to the belly. The legs are long and pinkish in colour. Boys and girls are similar.

Its favourite habitat – note the leaf litter around…

In flight, the wingtips show up as black with a circular white spot.

Like i said, this bird is migratory, migrating between the north and south of the Indian Subcontinent and is an endemic, i.e., not found anywhere else in the world.


This bird spends it’s time mainly hopping around in wooded areas, searching for food while wagging its tail. It’s diet includes insects, earthworms and grubs. It prefers moist earth covered with fallen leaves.

It calls at the crack of dawn and dusk, as if to wish good morning & good night. At this time it’s call is mainly a double whistle but it can also mimic other birds including birds of prey in its warning calls.

Foraging for food…

One might think that since this is a colorful bird, it may be easy to spot. But, on the contrary, they blend in very well in their habitat. And let me share another secret, the bird can hide or expose its aqua patches at will..!!!

Hiding its aqua patch…


Since this bird prefers deciduous forests with undergrowth & leaf litter, habitat loss is a big threat. For beautification purposes, leaf litter often gets cleared up and worse, burnt. In today’s world, looks matter.

I stumbled upon this particular bird near a place frequented by tourists. This place had the ideal conditions for the bird. On one of my recent visits to the place, to my surprise, I heard the loud whistling calls of the bird. I decided to follow it. But instead of the bird, I saw two other birders sitting there with a phone. To my dismay, they were using call playbacks to lure the bird out. I advised them against doing it but they kept playing the call for quite a while. In the end, the bird didn’t show up and sadly, I never saw the bird again. Perhaps it decided to move away from that place.

Another well known fact about Pittas is that their migration is adversely affected by bright city lights. the birds lose orientation and land up in the wrong places. This behavior is similar to that of Puffins in Europe.


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