many birdwatchers in Thailand, and other parts of the tropics, a
sighting of a pitta species is the pinnacle of a day's birdwatching.
Indeed, when I first arrived in Thailand the conversation with other
birdwatchers I would meet always quickly progressed to whether any
pittas had been spotted. Unfortunately, these birds are very
difficult to find, and this, combined with their intense beauty
makes them so desirable.
twelve species of pitta which are of varying difficulty to find
and anyone who has seen all twelve in Thailand would be a very accomplished
birdwatcher indeed! Below are notes on all twelve of Thailand's
pitta species, including where birdwatchers are most likely to encounter
them. I have listed them in the order they appear in Craig Robson's
"A Field Guide to
the Birds of Thailand"
anyone wants any further advise on how to find pittas in Thailand
please don't hesitate to contact me for help:
Eared Pitta Pitta phayrei
A number of
tourist lodges around the southwest edge of Khao Yai have access
to low level forest and at one of these, near Nakorn Nayok, Peter
Ericsson photographed an Eared Pitta - so this is perhaps an
option for those determined to get a sighting.
(Photo by Suppalak
Pitta is an uncommon resident and rarely seen by visiting
birdwatchers. However, in Lekagul
and Round it is listed as an uncommon to common resident
and it may be that the low number of sightings is due to the
fact that its habitat below 900 metres is not as widely visited
as it might be.
Sightings do occur from Khao
Yai National Park, particularly from the trails
that are close to the headquarters and Eared Pitta has also
been photographed from Kaeng
Krachan National Park too: I have seen and heard
it between streams 2 and 3 near Ban Krang on several occasions,
particularly in the breeding season.
Pitta has also been photographed on a number of occasions
from blinds around Kaeng Krachan; a morning or afternoon in
one of these blinds can be arranged through the owners of
Despite the fact that Eared Pitta is not commonly seen in Thailand
it is fairly widespread, but mainly confined to regions rarely visited
by birdwatchers. Its international conservation status is "Least
concern" as classified by IUCN.
Unless you are very lucky you will have to be very determined
and focused to see Eared Pitta in Thailand.
Take a look
at this video clip of an Eared Pitta taken in Khao Yai National
Park in 2004: Eared
More Eared Pitta
photos here: Eared
Blue-rumped Pitta Pitta soror
(Photo by James
Pitta is confined, in Thailand, to the extreme southeast of
the country. The most accessible place for birdwatchers to
find this species is Khao
Soi Dao in Chantaburi province, although there
are a few other national parks in the region which have limited
visiting access where it may also be found: Khao Kitchakut
and Khao Srabab. Very few visiting birdwatchers (or resident
birders) get to see this pitta as Khao Soi Dao is not a heavily
visited area which is a shame as the habitat is of excellent
Blue-rumped Pitta has a very restricted range in Thailand
and is an uncommon resident, it has quite a large range, stretching
from south east Thailand, through Indochina and into China
itself. The conservation status is listed as "least concern"
by the IUCN.
Pitta photographs here: Blue-rumped
Rusty-naped Pitta Pitta oatesi
(Photo by Suppalak
Pitta is one of the more frequently recorded pittas in Thailand,
although few people are lucky enough to get much of a view
of it due to its highly secretive nature.
confined to the north and west of Thailand, a number of well-visited
sites offer a chance to see this species. At Doi
Chiang Dao Rusty-naped Pitta used to be frequently
seen at the beginning of the "nature trail" and
in the temple gully. Rather too many people have resorted
to playing the bird's call at this location and now I havent
heard of any sightings there for some time. Quite a few observations
of Rusty-naped Pitta occur along the jeep trail at Doi
Inthanon: listen out for its "chow-wit"
call! A number of sightings have also occurred along the tracks
at Chong Yen campsite at Mae
Wong National Park; myself and others have found
this bird at Doi
Ang Kang, Doi Suthep, Doi Lang and other suitable
areas of habitat in the north. Rusty-naped Pitta has also
been found and photographed on the nest at Kaeng
Krachan National Park ; I saw one at Km 28 in
|Since 2011 a Rusty-naped Pitta has performed well
at a stakeout at Mae Wong national park - contact the rangers for
details and they will help you. Another stakeout at Doi Lang produced
regular sightings through winter 2012-13.
Pitta is one of the most infrequently "observed" pittas
in Thailand, it is an uncommon resident whilst the international
listing of Birdlife
International is of "least concern".
Pitta can be a very difficult bird to see properly; whilst there
are many "sightings" after talking to many of those who
have observed the bird, it seems very few people get much more than
Giant Pitta Pitta caerulea
(Photo by Suppalak
Pitta is a very rare resident and very seldom seen by visiting
or resident birdwatchers alike. This species is confined to
evergreen forests of the lowlands in the peninsula and has
been seen on a very few occassions at Kaeng
Krachan National Park although it is almost a
mythical bird at this location. It has also been videoed at
Khao Nor Chu
Chi some years ago and a few have also been lucky
enough to see Giant Pitta on the riverside loop accessible
from the research centre at
Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary.
2011 I was lucky enough to see a female Giant Pitta on two
occasions when the forest was extremely dry and the only water
was a few puddles in the stream bed between stream crossings
2 and 3. Others also saw the male during this time and perhaps
these are the best conditions under which to find this bird.
Giant Pitta is a rare resident and probably endangered in
Thailand due to lowland deforestation it is only listed as
"near threatened" by the IUCN
and as with many other lowland specialists it is far more
likely to be encountered in Malaysia or Indonesia.
come to Thailand expecting to see a Giant Pitta, other countries
will give you a better chance.
photos of Giant Pitta here: Giant
Blue Pitta Pitta cyanea
Blue Pitta is elusive and hard to observe, it is fairly abundant
and those who are determined should eventually get a good view of
(Photo by Chaiwat
Pitta is one of Thailand's more common pittas, occurring in
moist forest from the plains to about 1500 metres. This species
is frequently observed by determined visiting birdwatchers
at Khao Yai
National Park on numerous different trails and
Kaeng Krachan National
Park close to the campsite at Km 15 in damp gulleys
and similar spots and myself and others have also seen this
bird a number of times at Nam
Nao. Whilst Blue Pitta's range includes most
of the west and the north, as well as the south east and parts
of the northeast, it is absent from most of the south.
Pitta's call is "pleoow-whit" but particularly at
Kaeng Krachan and parts of Khao Yai replays of this call are
being overused meaning that many individuals are no longer
reacting, making them very difficult to see.
its situation as a fairly common resident, the Blue Pitta's
international conservation status is "least concern"
as stated by the IUCN.
More Blue Pitta
photographs here: Blue
Banded Pitta Pitta guajana
Pitta is one of the most findable Pittas in Thailand and those who
are determined should see one in the south.
(Photo by Suppalak
Pitta is one of the most beautiful species in Thailand and
is confined to forest up to 610 metres in the southern peninsula.
Never an easy species to find, most sightings of Banded Pitta
in Thailand are from Khao
Nor Chu Chi which has more to do with the number
of visitors to this location than its abundance. Those searching
for this species would do well to visit Khao
Sok National Park or Krung Ching Waterfall where
very reliable stakeouts for Banded Pitta exists and other
quality areas of forest in the south such as Hala-Bala,
Sri Phang Nga
have also provided some lucky birdwatchers with a view of
has a soft call which consists of a falling "pouw"
followed by a whirring "kirrr" and it is said that
Gurney's Pitta responds to the playback of Banded Pitta's
call. For this reason birdwatchers at Khao Nor Chu Chi should
avoid the use of this species call.
of Banded Pitta is as an uncommon resident and internationally
it is classified as "Least concern" by the IUCN.
Take a look
at Jan Wilczur's fabulous painting of a Banded
More photos of Banded Pitta here: Banded
Bar-bellied Pitta Pitta elliotii
(Photo by Suppalak
not aware of any sightings of Bar-bellied Pitta in recent
years and certainly not by holidaying birdwatchers, indeed
it appears that it may never have been seen in the wild in
Thailand - known only from an individual in a market in Ubon
Ratchatani. This species has a severley restricted range in
Thailand occurring only in the extreme southeast and east
of the country in forest below 400 metres. With the destruction
of almost all forest below this altitude there are only a
very few patches of habitat left close to the Cambodian border.
For those determined to find this bird in Thailand a couple
of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Ubon Ratchatani
province may be the place to look.
Bar-bellied Pitta being endangered in Thailand its international
conservation status is listed as "least concern"
by the IUCN
due to its extensive range through Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Pitta photographs here: Bar-bellied
Gurney's Pitta Pitta gurneyi
(Photo by Suppalak
small population of Gurney's Pitta still holds out at Khao
Nor Chu Chi, near Krabi, with around 15 estimated.
Although a few individuals may still hold out in nearby forest
fragments and a large
population has been discovered in Myanmar, KNC is the
best chance for most birders to see this species.
make the frustrating wait on U-trail in order to get a glimpse
of Gurney's Pitta but there are also frequent sightings from
some of the other nearby, but overgrown, trails and also from
B-trail so don't spend your whole time sat in a mosquito infested
puddle on U-trail!
Pitta is now classified as endangered by Birdlife
International but it remains important to refrain from
using taped or imitated calls to lure it into view as too
many people do. There are fewer and fewer independent sightings
of Gurney's Pitta these days, although some people have seen
it in the breeding season - most people hire the assistance
of Yothin Meekao to see this bird.
Take a look
at Jan Wilczur's fabulous painting of a Gurney's
of Gurney's Pitta here: Gurney's
Gurney's Pitta was voted the most sought-after bird in Thailand by visiting birdwatchers:
Gurney's Pitta, Thailand's
most wanted bird.
Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida
(Photo by Thomas Ruedas)
Pitta is a wet season migrant to most of Thailand although
it is present throughout the year in the peninsula. It occurs
far further north than the distribution maps in either Robson's
or Lekagul & Round's
field guides but is not often seen by visiting birdwatchers.
I have seen this species in the temple gully at Doi
Chiang Dao in early May and it has been seen
breeding as far north as Chiang
Saen. As with many other pittas, Hooded Pitta
has been photographed a number of times at nests at Kaeng
Krachan, where it can be fairly easy to find
just after it arrives in late April and May, and also at Khao
Yai National Park and any site in the south could
provide a sighting of this species. Hooded Pitta seems to
be found more or less annually at Phuttamonton
Park just outside Bangkok in the early wet season.
Pitta calls in a similar manner to many other pittas with
a "fluty raew-raew" similar to that of Blue-winged
Hooded Pitta is an uncommon to locally common bird and its
international status is listed as "least concern"
due to its large range from India and Nepal in the west to
Japan in the east and as far south as Papua New Guinea.
the wet season Hodded Pitta can turn up anywhere and its habit of
calling from within trees makes it relatively easy to see for a
Pitta from May-July/August.
More Hooded Pitta photographs here: Hooded
Garnet Pitta Pitta granatina
(Photo by Suppalak
to broadleaved evergreen forest below 200 metres in the Malay
peninsula, the only place in Thailand this fantastic bird
is likely to be found is in Hala-Bala
Wildlife Sanctuary along the river accessible
from the research station. This very rare resident exists
probably in only very small numbers in Thailand due to deforestation
of the lowlands.
lucky enough to get to the extreme south of Thailand to look
for this bird should listen out for its drawn out monotone
whistle, which is very similar to that of Malaysian Rail-babbler,
along lowland river valleys. A few people, including myself,
have been lucky and found Garnet Pitta at the Bala section
of Hala-Bala Wildlfie Sanctuary where it is should be looked
for along the rather leech-infested trail across the stream
at the rear of the research station. This species usually
calls from elevated perches and in thorny palms.
in Thailand Garnet Pitta is almost certainly endangered, the
Book lists it, internationally, as "near threatened"
and it is much easier to find in Malaysia, Indonesia, particularly
Pitta photographs here: Garnet
Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis
(Photo by Suppalak
Pitta is perhaps Thailand's most common pitta species, although
it is not seen by too many visiting birdwatchers as it mainly
spends the dry season in Malaysia and Indonesia although small
numbers are resident in the south. This bird is regarded as
a common wet season breeder and can be found in all sorts
of places during migration, even turning up in parks and gardens
in Bangkok. For visiting birders one of the best chances of
finding Blue-winged Pitta is at Khao
Nor Chu Chi in April/May when it is often seen
in the garden of the Morakot resort as well as on the trails.
Although this site accounts for many sightings this species
can be found over a large part of the country in the breeding
season and is particularly common at Kaeng
Krachan in May-July.
status of Blue-winged Pitta reflects its abundance in Thailand
as it is listed as "least concern" by the IUCN
with a range stretching from India, through China to The Philippines.
the easiest Pitta in Thailand at the right time of year (May-July)
when it is common in many places and calls from high in trees.
Pitta photographs here: Blue-winged
Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha
(Photo by Peter
restricted to mangroves on the west coast of the southern
peninsula, Mangrove Pitta is probably one of the easiest pittas
to find in Thailand. Its habit of sitting high up in mangrove
trees and calling makes it reasonably easy to spot if you
can get into the right habitat. Many birders see this species
on a boat trip with Mr Dai who has been able to find this
bird for many people, although he seems to be putting in less
effort these days. There are also some reliable spots for
Mangrove Pitta at Ao Phang Nga National Park, accessible a
few kilometres south of Phang Nga town, where there are several
boardwalks and jetties that one can walk into the mangroves
or take a boat trip - I am told that the pitta is easily found
here. Others have seen this species in Phuket, near Takua
Pa and Kuraburi - anywhere that one can get into mangroves
along the western coast is worth a look.
Mangrove Pitta is listed by the IUCN
as "near threatened" as, although its range stretches
from Bangladesh to Indonesia, its mangrove habitat continues
to be destroyed in all countries it occurs in.
the breeding season this is a fairly easy Pitta to find. Outside
of the breeding season...........
Pitta photographs here: Mangrove
Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha
(Photo by Alnus)
Pitta is known from only one record, in Thailand, at Phuttamoton
Park near Bangkok when one individual stayed from 11th
to 17th April 2009 and was widely observed and photographed.
of Fairy Pitta was something of a surprise and may never be
repeated again, although at the same time a few other birds
which winter in Borneo also showed up in Thailand, so if the
weather conditions are ever right again in April it could
be worth a closer look at any Blue-winged Pittas that appear
in parks and gardens.
Fairy Pitta is listed by the IUCN
as "vulnerable" as, its habitat is subject to deforestation
in its breeding range and its population is thought to be
only a few thousand individuals.
of Fairy Pitta can be seen here: Fairy
Blue-naped Pitta Pitta nipalensis
was predicted as a possible addition to the Thai bird list
in Round & Lekagul's
A guide to the Birds of Thailand and was finally discovered
on 1st March 2009 at around 900m above sea level at Pu Suan
Sai national park, Loei province.
has not yet been photographed in Thailand and was found in
thick bamboo forest, so the opportunities for viewing it and
photography are not good. It has been seen by just a handful
of observers and very few have even heard it. I was lucky
enough to hear one call twice at Pu Suan sai in early July
2010 but the dense bamboo and rampant leeches gave me no chance
to see the bird - I have been told that this species calls
from trees and other elevated perches.
quite possible, even likely, that Blue-naped Pitta occurs
in a few other areas of northern/northeastern Thailand.
Blue-naped Pitta is listed by the IUCN
as "least concern" as it has a very wide range throughout
Asia even though it is thought to be declining in many areas.
of Blue-naped Pitta can be seen here: Blue-naped
best time to look for pittas in Thailand is in
the breeding season and the lead up to it. Most
of my Pitta sightings are between the end of January
Anyone requiring assistance in
finding pittas or any of Thailand's other species
should take a look at the suggested itineraries
for ideas on possible trips:
view details or can contact me firstname.lastname@example.org