The ‘Pitta Patter’ (of tiny bird feet) at Waddesdon Manor Aviary
A rare bird has been successfully hand-reared at Waddesdon Manor: the Javan banded Pitta, Pitta guajana, which is found only on the islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia. Pitta are a bird species found in the passerine family. They live predominately on the ground, where they forage for earthworms and other invertebrates in the leaf litter of tropical low land forest. They are brightly coloured birds and are often referred to as “jewels of the forest”. The 34 species of Pitta are extremely popular with bird watchers although many are only able to glimpse a flash of colour amongst the forest floor vegetation. Pitta have never been common in captivity and have proven difficult to breed, however, given that half the pitta species known to science are threatened with extinction, it has never been more important to maintain captive populations. Indonesian forests are disappearing at an alarming rate; many areas are destroyed in order to make way for palm oil plantations, which is bad news for many species, including Pitta. These birds are also caught for the illegal bird trade.
The banded pitta, found on a number of islands in Indonesia and the Malayan Peninsula, was recently split into three distinct species: Javan, Malayan and Bornean species. This distinction has potentially resulted in these newly recognised species being more threatened than previously thought. For example, the Malayan banded pitta has already been upgraded to “Near Threatened” status.
“There are only a handful of Javan banded Pitta found in zoos outside Indonesia and the pair at Waddesdon Manor Aviaries are the only pair of this species in the UK. This recent successful rearing of a Javan banded Pitta at Waddesdon Manor is very exciting, particularly since it is potentially the first captive rearing of this species in the UK. It is certainly a very rare occurrence, which will hopefully aid in our understanding and competence in breeding Pittas in captivity. The aviary team hope to continue successfully breeding this species in future, to help increase their numbers within European zoological collections”.
“This is a great achievement in aviculture, which the team at Waddesdon are very proud and excited about. We hope that it can further our understanding of breeding pitta in captivity. Pitta species in the wild are under increasing threat, therefore maintaining captive populations within accredited zoological institutions, such as Waddesdon Manor Aviary, has never been more important”.
Comments made by Gavin Harrison, Senior Aviculturist, Waddesdon Manor Aviaries.