(1323) Pitta brachyura.
The Indian Pitta.
Corvus brachyurus Linn., Syst. Nat., 12th ed. i, p 158 (1766) (Moluccas in errore, Ceylon). Pitta brachyura. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 393.
Vernacular names. Nourang (Hind.); Shumcha (Beng.); Poona-inki (Tel.) ; Avitchia, Avitta (Oing.) ; Dao-bui-yegashi (Cachari).
Description. A broad coronal streak from the forehead to the nape black, remainder of crown fulvous-brown, paler and almost white at the sides forming a supercilium from the bill to the nape where the feathers are prolonged almost into aigrettes, the inner webs fulvous, the outer pale blue; feathers under the eye white or fulvous-white; lores, sides of the head, ear-coverts and sides of the neck black meeting the coronal streak and forming a collar on the hind-neck; back, scapulars, rump, median wing-coverts and inner secondaries green; lower rump, upper tail-coverts and lesser wing-coverts bright pale blue; tail black, broadly tipped with green; primary coverts black ; primaries black, the two first with broad patches of white on the inner webs, the others with white patches on both webs and all tipped with pale greyish-brown; chin, throat and a line behind the black neck, white; abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts crimson-pink ; remainder of lower plumage fulvous ; under wing-coverts and axillaries black.
Many individuals have the feathers of the upper parts broadly streaked with black ; in some these streaks are confined to the back, in others they extend to the rump, upper tail-coverts and inner secondaries.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill dark brown or black, paler and more reddish at the base and on the tip and culmen; legs and feet pale purplish -fleshy or dingy pale brown (possibly young birds).
Measurements. Wing 101 to 108 ram.; tail 37 to 40 mm.; tarsus 35 to 38 mm.; culmen 20 to 22 mm.
Young birds have the crown darker and the feathers edged with black ; the back is very dark and much duller and browner; the lower plumage is duller and browner and there is but little pink.
Distribution. Simla to Ceylon ; Rajputana, Bombay, to Assam, Chittagong and Manipur.
Nidification. The Indian Pitta breeds over the whole of its range but in the extreme South it is rare, whilst it is most common in many parts of Central India and again in South Assam and parts of Bihar. Its nest is the usual huge football, often as much as a foot long by about nine inches high, made of leaves, grass, twigs and moss and lined with grass and bamboo-leaves or, in the Central Province, with tamarisk twigs and grass-roots. The nests are sometimes placed on the ground, sometimes on bushes but more often in among the first and larger forked boughs of small trees and saplings. Like so many other Pittas' nests they owe much of their security from marauders to their very conspicuousness which renders them so unlike most nests. They lay four to six eggs with the usual glossy china-white ground and are very spherical in shape. The marks consist of spots and specks varying from purple-brown to almost black with secondary markings of lavender and dull purple, whilst in a few eggs the spots are more brown or light reddish-brown. In the great majority of eggs the marks are fairly numerous at the larger end and sparse elsewhere while the twisted lines so common in most Pittas' eggs are very rarely present. Fifty eggs average 24.7 x 21.2 mm.: maxima 28.2 X 21.1 and 27.1 X 22.4 mm.; minima 23.3 x 21.0 and 24.9 x 20.0 mm. The principal breeding months are April to June.
Habits. The Indian Pitta is resident throughout India though it may move locally and is probably only a Summer breeding visitor to the hills above 2,000 feet. It is not a bird of the deeper forests, seeming to prefer bamboo- and scrub-jungle or deciduous forest such as Sal and Oak. It feeds, like other Pittas, entirely on the ground, but roosts on trees and is said to utter its whistling calls from trees or other elevated perches.