(1321) Pitta moluccensis.
The Lesser Blue-winged Pitta.
Turdus moluccensis Midler, Natursyst. Suppl., p. 144 (1776) (Moluccas in errore, Tenasserim). Pitta cyanoptera. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 392.
Vernacular names. Nok-tao-rao (all Pittas) (Siam).
Description. A coronal streak from the lore head to the nape black; lores, round the eye, cheeks, ear-coverts and sides of the neck black, meeting the coronal streak and forming a collar on the hind-neck; back, scapulars and inner secondaries dark grass-green; rump, upper tail-coverts and lesser wing-coverts brilliant ultramarine; tail black, tipped with dull blue; median and greater wing-coverts green, tipped and edged with blue; primaries white, with broad black bases and tips, the inner primaries nearly all white; secondaries black, the terminal portions of the outer webs green ; chin and throat white, the former black at the point; remainder of lower plumage bright buff, the centre of the abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts bright scarlet-crimson.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; eyelid and ocular region slaty-blue ; bill horny-brown to almost black, the culmen and tip quite black; legs and feet and inside of mouth fleshy-pink.
Measurements. Wing 118 to 127 mm.; tail 42 to 45 mm.; tarsus 20 to 24 mm.; culmen 24 to 26 mm.
Young birds have the coronal streak broader and ill-defined and the feathers of the crown edged with black; wing-coverts dull blue and the lower plumage less bright than m the adult.
Many adult birds of both sexes have black streaks on the feathers of the upper plumage, sometimes on the back, sometimes on the lower back and rump. These streaks seem to be a characteristic of all the Pittas and have nothing to do with age or sex.
Distribution. South Arakan to South Tenasserim, Central Burma from the Karen Hills to the extreme South ; Siam ; the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo.
Birds from Sumatra and Borneo have very broad nuchal collars but there is not sufficient material available to show if this is individual or geographical. Two specimens from Penang have the collar rather broad, but in the fifty odd specimens from the North there are none which show any approach in breadth of collar to the island birds.
Nidification. The Lesser Blue-winged Pitta breeds from April to July throughout its recorded range, making a nest practically indistinguishable from that of the preceding bird although it is placed nearly always on the ground and not in such heavy forest. Mackenzie, who has taken or seen numerous nests, •one with fresh eggs as late as the 1st August, says that they are most common in fairly dense forest of Teak where there-is sufficient, though not very heavy, undergrowth. As a rule the nests are scattered very far apart, but in a few favoured places they are comparatively numerous. They are nearly always built on the banks of tiny forest streams with the opening facing the stream and a favourite position is wedged in among the roots of a tree. The number of eggs varies from three to seven and in colour they are typical Pitta's but on the whole are the most richly and profusely marked of all In some eggs spots and hieroglyphics are mixed together but in others one or the other type preponderates. sixty-six eggs average 26.3 x 21.3 mm.: maxima 28.9 X 22.1 and 27.1 X 22.6 mm.; minima 24.0 X 20.7 and 25.2 x 20.0 mm.
Habits. Very similar in all respects to P. cyanea but it does not keep so exclusively to dense forest. Occasionally it comes close to villages and Mackenzie found a nest within two hundred yards of a village. Oates says that they are only Summer visitors to Burma but that once they arrive " the jungle seems, alive with these birds and their loud melodious note may be heard in every well-wooded locality."