The intrinsic muscles of the syrinx fixed at or near the middle of the bronchial semi-rings; wing of ten primaries, the first of considerable size and reaching nearly to the tip of the wing; tarsus elongated, the anterior covering entire and smooth ; tail very short and of twelve feathers ; feathers of crown elongate and forming a conspicuous crest when erected.
The Pittidae are a compact group of birds which are found over the whole of South-eastern Asia, extending to Australia; and a single species is found in Africa. They differ from all other Indian Passeres in the structure of the syrinx and also in the formation of the wing, the first primary being of large size, whereas in all the other ten-primaried Passeres the first is markedly small. Their long legs and short tails also suffice to separate them from nearly all other Passeres.
The Pittas live habitually on the ground and feed on insects ; they hop and run with great facility and their flight is strong for short distances. The males have a very sweet call consisting of a double whistle, uttered from a tree. The majority of the species prefer dense jungle, but some few may be found in gardens, sparse bamboo-jungle, and even in comparatively open country. Many of the species are locally migratory, others appear to be quite stationary throughout the year.
The Pittas make large oven-shaped nests on the ground or on thick branches near the ground and lay four or five eggs which are very richly marked.
It seems quite impossible to divide the Indian Pittas into more than two genera, as they are extremely similar to each other in structure.
Key to the Genera.
a. Feathers at sides of nape long and pointed, forming conspicuous aigrettes…………………ANTHOCINCLA, p. 387.
6. Feathers at sides of nape not conspicuously lengthened …………………PITTA, p. 388.