(1325) Pitta cucullata cucullata Hartl.
Tee GREEN-BREASTED PITTA.
Pitta cucullata cucullata. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 455.
This beautiful bird occurs in the Outer Himalayas and the Terai from Nepal to extreme Eastern Assam, while it also breeds in some places, such as Gonda, in the plains of the United Provinces. It is found in the districts of Eastern Bengal, North and East of the Bay, and thence throughout the whole of Burma to the Malay States and Siam.
It breeds in the foot-hills and adjacent hills and up to at least 6,000 feet, frequenting forest of all kinds, the deepest and wettest as well as the driest and thinnest, while it may also be met with in bamboo-jungle, scrub-jungle and in crops, such as mustard and rice, or in cultivation outside forest.
The nest is nearly always placed in thick cover, the favourite site, perhaps, being under bamboo-clumps in heavy tree-forest. I have, however, seen nests in thin scrub-jungle, matted secondary growth and in open bamboo-jungle, though the last is very rare. I have also found it breeding in dense grass, with patches of forest scattered here and there. Like most Pittas, they are fond of breeding by water, small streams and wet ravines in tree-forest often containing nests on their banks. The nests are always, I think, placed on the ground and never, so far as I am aware, on trees like the nest of the Indian Pitta. In construction they are much the same as those of other Pittas, oval balls of bamboo-leaves, grass etc. very loosely put together and lined with grass and leaves. Some nests, however, have much more mixed material in them. One I have seen was made almost entirely of moss, some green and some dry, mixed with leaves, twigs and grass and comparatively well lined with roots and skeleton leaves. At the same time bamboo-leaves are undoubtedly the favourite material, and I have seen nests made of these although the birds had to fetch each leaf from a distance of over a quarter of a mile. No nest is sufficiently well built to allow of handling or of removal from the original site ; even the entrance and exit of the bird through the very wide entrance always seems to be attended with the danger of the whole structure coming down. Most, if not all, of the nests I have personally taken have measured about 8 to 10 inches long by 6 to 9 inches broad, some being almost spherical. Hodgson describes the nest in Nepal as spherical and as measuring 6.75 inches each way ; Cripps speaks of one only 5 inches either way and, surely, abnormal, while one found by Davison was 9.5 in height by 10 inches in length, with an entrance 3 inches across.
They must, I think, build very quickly, as on one occasion I saw a pair of birds busy running about with material, though no signs of nest were visible, yet, returning three days later the nest was practically finished, and in ten days from the start contained five fresh eggs. When I first saw them the nest had not been begun, though both birds were running about in a most excited manner carrying bamboo-leaves. Sometimes after the completion of the nest a little stage is erected for the birds to run up from the ground to the entrance of the nest. This may be from 4 to 8 inches wide and at the higher end as thick as 3 inches. At other times a platform for the nest with en trance-ladder is made before the nest is begun and is then occasionally quite substantial.
The breeding season is May, June and July in Assam and I have taken eggs from the 24th April to the 8th August. In Nepal and Sikkim Hodgson gives April and May as the two breeding-months. Cripps took a nest in Sylhet on the 25th May, while Davison secured another on the 12th July near Amherst. In Siam they seem to be very late breeders, Herbert taking the nests in the end of July.
The eggs, four or five in number, cannot be distinguished from those of the Indian Pitta but, as a series, a greater percentage of eggs are marked over the whole surface equally and not only at the larger end. They are, of course, of the usual hard, glossy white and very spherical.
Fifty eggs average 27.1 x 21.0 mm. : maxima 28.0 x 22.0 and 25.8 x 22.5 mm. ; minima 23.0 x 22.0 and 25.0 x 19.6 mm.
Both birds incubate and both assist in building the nest. They sit, like all Pittas, very close and only leave when the nest is almost trodden on, while if quiet is maintained the bird will return almost at once even if the watcher is in view. Once standing about ten yards from a nest, but quite exposed, both male and female returned to the nest and were secured within five minutes of our finding it.
1325. Pitta cucullata cucullata
(1325) Pitta cucullata cucullata Hartl.