(1323) Pitta brachyura (Linn.).
THE INDIAN PITTA.
Pitta brachyura, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 453.
This, the best-known form of Pitta, has a wide range, being found over practically the whole of India from the sub-Himalayas to Ceylon, though it does not breed in that island. It is common in Assam, extreme Eastern Bengal and Manipur. It does not occur in Sind nor in the desert parts of Rajputana.
Osmaston records it as coming in great numbers as far West as the Jumna, and Donald found it breeding in the Kangra Valley (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxvi, p. 423, 1919).
At the time Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs’ was written the only person known to have obtained the nests or eggs was Blewitt, who, according to Hume, took a “vast number in the neighbourhood of Raipur, Central Provinces.” Since then many collectors have taken the eggs. Davidson found many in Kanara and Betham took many more near Mhow. In the Surrma Valley also it was very common but, whereas in India generally it is a bird of comparatively thin forest without much undergrowth, here it haunted forest which, was often very dense.
Unlike other Pittas, this bird, more often than not, builds its nests at a considerable height from the ground. Betham (loc. cit. vol. xix, p. 388, 1910) gives an interesting deseription of their neats :—“I had not proceeded very far when I saw an untidy mass of twigs in the fork of a teak-tree, with absolutely no concealment, about 12 feet off the ground. I did not think much about it, but as it was so accessible, I told my orderly to go up and investigate. To my intense pleasure and surprise, as he began to climb, out flew a Pitta and my search was rewarded. The nest contained six partially incubated eggs. I had the nest taken down and examined it. First a mass of sticks is collected forming a foundation, on this the nest proper is built up, it is compact and domed, oval in shape, with the entrance at one side. All the material is welded together, skeleton leaves being largely employed. The interior is neatly finished off and lined with roots, grass and such-like. The whole structure is about the size of a man’s head and placed, as those were that I found, on a low fork they are not difficult to see.”
Other nests found by Betham were similar in size, construction and site. Ollenbach obtained for me a fine series of nests and eggs in Jamalpur. Here also they were invariably placed on trees, Sal-trees (Shorea robusta) being nearly always chosen, at heights from 10 to 30 feet from the ground. In Assam I found nests both on the ground and in trees. The nests were very similar to those described by Betham, but I should not have called any of them “compact,” as they nearly always fell to pieces when taken from the tree, while those on the ground were still more roughly put together and would stand no handling, though not as flimsy as the bamboo-leaf nests of the Blue-naped Pitta.
The nests taken by myself and Ollenbach averaged about 8 inches in length by about 6 in width and height. In trees the platforms were often massive but, on the ground, generally meagre and some¬times dispensed with altogether.
Everywhere the breeding season is from the end of May to the end of July, though I took one nest at Gowhate on the 27th April and another in Cachar on the 14th August. Both these dates are, however, quite exceptional.
The eggs number four to six and are very like those of the Blue¬winged Pitta but are not quite so beautiful as a series. In most eggs the markings are of the same colour and character as in the eggs of that bird, but I have very seldom seen any with lines on them, and in three out of four clutches the spots are sparse everywhere except at the large end. Occasionally in a clutch, otherwise quite normally marked, there is one egg with a big blotch about 4 to 6 mm. across.
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.
Both sexes incubate, but I cannot say whether the cock assists in building.
1323. Pitta braehyura
(1323) Pitta brachyura (Linn.).