(1320) Pitta cyanea cyanea.
The Blue Pitta.
Pitta cyanea Blyth, J. A. S. B., xii, p. 1008 (1843) (Arakan); Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 391.
Vernacular names. Daobui gatanglili (Cachari). Description - Male. A broad coronal streak from the forehead to the nape black; remainder of forehead and crown ochre-grey changing to red on the posterior crown and becoming pure scarlet on the nape ; lores and a line through the eye black, broadening on the sides of the neck; whole upper plumage, tail and lesser median wing-coverts blue ; greater coverts and winglet black; quills very dark brown, the primaries with a white patch at the base and with some of the inner ones washed with grey-blue near the tips of the outer webs, inner secondaries like the back., outer washed with blue on the outer webs; cheeks and ear-coverts fulvous-ochre; a moustachial streak black, widening and almost meeting on the throat; chin and throat white, the rather lanceolate feathers streaked with black; a white patch on the lower throat; remainder of lower plumage sheeny pale blue,, washed with yellow on the breast and boldly marked with lunar bars or spots of black ; centre of abdomen and vent almost unmarked; under tail-coverts nearly all white mottled with bluish-grey at the bases; under wing-coverts and axillaries brown and white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark reddish-brown ; eyelids plumbeous ; bill black, inside of the mouth dusky-fleshy ; legs pinkish flesh-colour.
Measurements. "Wing 106 to 116 mm.; tail 57 to 62 mm.; tarsus 43 to 45 mm.; culmen 22 to 24 mm.
Female. Upper plumage and wing-coverts brown washed with blue to a varying degree; rump more blue; longer upper tail-coverts and tail blue; lower plumage like that of the male but with the blue much less and the dull fulvous much more in extent; the markings also are narrower and less bold and the sheen is confined to the flanks; remainder of plumage as in the male but paler and duller.
The Young bird is like the female but retains the fulvous tips to the wing-coverts' and often shows faint signs of barring above.
Nestling. Above brown, the head almost black, each feather with a fulvous centre, bright and broad on the crown and nape and reduced to dull narrow lines on the back ; wing-coverts with terminal fulvous spots: rump and upper tail-coverts bluish; tail blue; chin and throat white, each feather narrowly edged with black; breast and underparts dark brown, each feather broadly streaked with fulvous; the centre of the abdomen and under tail-coverts almost white.
The nestlings and young birds have the bill fleshy-scarlet, the culmen and base mottled with horny-brown; the legs and feet are paler than in the adult.
Distribution. The Sub-Himalayas from Bhutan to Eastern Assam; Cachar, Tippera, Chittagong, Manipur, Lushai, Chin Hills and the hilly country of Burma from the Shan States to South Tenasserim ; Siam and Annam.
The only specimen from Annam is a very dark, richly coloured bird with the breast washed with red instead of yellowish; if this difference is constant, it would suffice to differentiate it from the other forms,
Nidification. The Blue Pitta breeds in Assam, South Burma and South Siam in May and June, occasionally as late as July, being found in the South Assam hills certainly up to 5,000 feet at this season, though normally it is a plains' breeder and not a mountain bird. The nest is a large oval domed affair anything between 6 and 10 inches in length and a little less in breadth and height. Where bamboo-leaves are obtainable these form the bulk of the material used, but moss, bracken, grass and other dead leaves nearly always form part, also and, when it is placed on the ground - as it often is - there is nearly always a bed of debris collected together for it to lie on. The lining is of roots and leaves and, however wet the outside may be, the inside is always warm and dry. It may be placed on the ground, on a stump or on a sapling and is often very conspicuous though so rough and untidy that nest-hunters of all kinds pass it by. The eggs, three to seven in number, generally four or five, are very spherical; the ground is a highly glossed china-white and the markings consist of fairly numerous specks, spots and short tangled lines of deep purple-black or lighter reddish-brown. These are much more numerous than on the eggs of the Blue-naped and Fulvous Pittas but are never numerous enough to obscure the ground. Fifty eggs average 27.3 x 20.9 mm.: maxima 28.2 X 22.1 mm.; minima 24.0 X 21.5and 25.2 x 20.1 mm.
Habits. The Blue Pitta seems to be locally migratory but no one has as yet been able to work out its movements. In N. Cachar it is resident, though very rare, for I have myself seen it in almost every month of the year, nor does it move vertically with the seasons. Both Burmese and Siamese say that the bird is only known to them in the breeding-season and that it is most irregular in its movements, some years being very numerous whilst in others hardly a bird is seen. The birds keep closely to -dense forest or bamboo- and scrub-jungle and are very shy and wary, scuttling away into cover on the slightest sign of danger. By preference they use their legs in escaping, progressing in huge leaps like all the members of this family, at the same time they can fly well when driven to do so. I think their principal diet is ants and termites but they will eat practically any kind of insect, larvae, worms etc. Their note is a beautiful whistle, very like that of the Blue-naped Pitta but not nearly so powerful.