Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Noisy Pitta
Pitta versicolor
(Viewing 4 of 8 photos)

Click to listen to sound samples It is remarkable how well such strikingly coloured birds as Noisy Pittas blend in with their rainforest habitat. The nemesis of many birdwatchers, their repeated "walk to work" songs (listen on sound page) echo through eastern Australian rainforests in spring and early summer, a constant reminder of their presence. They are fairly shy and except for a few determined birdwatchers, few people ever see them although there are the odd locations where they have become used to humans (see pic. 352207). Noisy Pittas occupy much the same breeding territories year after year and successive nests can be found in close proximity to one another. Sloping rocky gullies with lots of large tree buttresses and a fairly open understorey are ideal nesting areas. A favourite site for the football-sized nest is between the buttresses of a rainforest tree, usually on the low side, presumably to avoid flooding. Even though the nest is large it is well camouflaged with green moss, leaves etc and looks just like a lump of debris. Considerable conjecture exists concerning the function of the use of animal dung at the entrance to and sometimes inside the nest. Maybe it deters terrestrial predators such as bush rats or "puts them off the scent". Certainly rabbits are known to not like the smell of blood and bone so this might be a rodent thing. Pittas forage mostly on the ground and at quiet moments, the sound of their "hop-hop-hop-hop-hop" through the litter is quite distinctive. They usually only fly up into the lower canopy to an elevated perch to sing. If you answer them (for those who can whistle) they might come flying like a bullet through the sub-canopy and land silently above your head. Outside the breeding season they become much quieter and in some cooler mountain areas they may even vacate their territories for more equable climates. In my younger days, the Noisy Pitta was my nemesis as well. The urge to photograph such a stunning bird was very strong indeed. During some annual holidays I had discovered a pitta's nest with eggs in the Tooloom Scrub (near the NSW/Qld border) but not wishing to disturb an incubating bird I decided to return after a suitable absence. Two weeks later in Sydney after work on a Friday night, I set out on the long drive to Tooloom, almost 600 miles in those days. Next morning I struggled up through the rainforest with camera, tripod, hide and flash and guess what? Yes, the nest was empty! It wasn't clear whether it had failed or if the young had fledged (the parents keep the nest clean). Such is the lot of a photographer.


Photo: 352001-D

352001-D ... Noisy Pitta with bill full of blood worms for its nestlings, near Yarras, NSW.

Photo: 352201

352201 ... Noisy Pitta.

Photo: 352202

352202 ... A favourite site for the football sized nest is between the buttresses of a rain forest tree.

Photo: 352203

352203 ... Close up of the nest showning the "dung doormat".


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