(1320) Pitta cyanea cyanea Blyth.
THE ABAKAN BLUE PITTA.
Pitta cyanea cyanea. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 448.
This lovely bird is found in the lower Outer Himalayas from Bhutan to Eastern and Southern Assam. It occurs in the Tippera, Lushai, Chittagong and Chin Hills and Manipur, and thence in the hill-ranges of Burma from the Shan States to Tenasserim. It is also a resident of Siam, its place further East in Annam and Laos being taken by P. e. willoughbyi of Delacour.
This Pitta is throughout much of its area a plain’s breeder as in Siam and many parts of Burma, where, however, it seems to be everywhere rare. In the hills South of the Brahmapootra and in Dibrugarh it was common, and in Cachar was found breeding up to the summits of the highest peaks over 6,000 feet. It is almost entirely a forest bird, and most of the nests I have found have been in very wet evergreen-forest and, in most oases cases, forest in which the ground was much broken up by steep precipitous ravines and outcrops of rocks and boulders, the latter all covered by the most luxuriant growth of moss, ferns and orchids. Unlike the nest of the preceding Pittas, the neat of the present species is often built on old stumps, the tops of rocks and on steeply sloping banks, and is very seldom placed on the ground almost, or quite, in the open. At the same time I have occasionally seen the neat in scrub or in bamboo-jungle, provided this latter has ample undergrowth. I have taken nests absolutely unconcealed in any way, perched on the top of a rock or on a dead stump, conspicuous for all the world to see, yet safe from the fact that they are so unlike nests that no one would recognize them as such.
They are typical Pittas' nests, great oval balls of a foot in length by rather less in breadth, and constructed of all kinds of dead leaves, roots and rubbish. They are more compact and better built than those of the Blue-naped or Fulvous Pittas, yet are still too loosely put together to stand handling. Where bamboo-leaves are available these form the favourite material, birds often travelling far to obtain them, but bracken, grass, roots and even moss and lichen are used in considerable proportions. The outer parts of the nest are often soaked through, but the interior always seems snug and warm. When built on the ground they are often placed on beds or platforms of dead leaves, and have little platforms of sticks and leaves making a runway up to the entrance. One of these is well described by Herbert (Journ. Nat. Hist. Soc. Siam, vol. vi, 1924):—“The nest was situated on the ground at the foot of a bank and near to a clump of bamboos. It had a domed top with the entrance at the side, and was built on a platform which extended about four inches in front of the entrance. The nest was built of dry bamboo-leaves and the platform consisted of wet ones which were firmly matted together : the latter measured twelve inches in width and three in thickness. Later I saw other similar nests.”
Everywhere the breeding season seems to be the same—May, June and July. My own eggs have been taken on dates from the 6th May to the 20th July,
The eggs are glossy white, very broad ovals, like those of all other Pittas, but are much more profusely speckled or spotted than those of the Blue-naped or Fulvous Pitta. The markings consist of specks, spots or small blotches varying in colour from pale reddish to deep purple-black. In some eggs the secondary grey or lilac markings are as numerous as the primary and give a lilac tinge to the whole egg. I have one very handsome clutch which is profusely covered, almost mottled, with fairly dark reddish and with pale lilac ; another is exceptionally, boldly spotted with purple-black, and yet a third, equally handsome, sparingly marked with dark reddish and profusely with blotches, some quite large, of lilac-grey. In a very few eggs only are the markings obviously more numerous at the larger end and in none do they form rings or caps.
Fifty eggs average 27.6 x 20.9 mm. : maxima 28.2 x 22.1 mm. ; minima 24.0 x 21.3 and 25.2 x 20.1 mm.
1320. Pitta cyanea eyanea
(1320) Pitta cyanea cyanea Blyth.