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10 Most Wanted Birds in Thailand
Number 1: Gurney's Pitta Pitta gurneyi

Gurney's Pitta
(Photo by Suppalak Klabdee)

More than 20 years after its redsicovery in 1986 (there were no field observations between 1952 and 1986), Gurney's Pitta remains the number one target bird of visiting birdwatchers. Despite the discovery of a sizeable population of the species in Myanmar in 2003, the remnant population at Khao Nor Chu Chi, in southern Thailand, remains the only realistic opportunity to see Gurney's Pitta for most birdwatchers.

The almost total clearance of lowland forest in southern Myanmar and peninsular Thailand through clear-felling for timber, unofficial logging and conversion to croplands, fruit orchards, coffee, rubber and oil-palm plantations has meant that despite once being common across much of its range, it is now classified as critically endangered.

Indeed, the appeal of Gurney's Pitta is probably the combination of its stunning appearance and its status as a critically endangered species; despite the discovery of the population in Myanmar, this status, as yet, has not been reclassified, probably due to the difficulty of getting the remaining habitat protected and the expansion of logging and palm oil plantations in southern Myanmar.

Unfortunately, the Khao Nor Chu Chi population has not fared well since its rediscovery; in 1986 an estimated 40-45 pairs were thought to be present at the site but a survey in 2000 revealed just 11 pairs and 2 "spare" males. In peninsular Thailand only 20-50 km squared of forest below 100m remains and continues to decline.

On a more positive note, Gurney's Pitta occurs in secondary growth in lowland semi-evergreen forest with an understorey of Salacca palms - used as nest sites and there has been some attempt to investigate reforestation at Khao Nor Chu Chi.

For those attempting to find Gurney's Pitta at Khao Nor Chu Chi, the species is most detectable between mid-March and mid-June, with a peak of calling activity around mid-April. The birding logbooks at the Morakot Resort usually have the locations of the latest sightings with gulleys along the first few hundred metres of U-trail being the most regular place for sightings, although there are places along B-trail where they can be found.

Female Gurney's Pitta
(Photo by Vincent van der Spek

Rather predictably then, Gurney's Pitta remains the most desired bird in Thailand, at least until the forests where it exists in Myanmar are opened up to tourists and, of course, whilst it still remains at Khao Nor Chu Chi.

Whilst Gurney's Pitta ranked number one in this poll, Spoon-billed Sandpiper was a very close second, and these two species were far more popular than any other.

Top Ten Most Wanted Birds of Thailand: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Post your own most wanted top ten birds of Thailand here.

Fabulous, high quality giclee prints of Gurney's Pitta, painted by Jan Wilczur from field sketches taken at Khao Nor Chu Chi are available for £35 plus postage and packaging.

See Jan's wonderful paintings as well as a short biography of the artist and information on the prints: Jan Wilczur's Bird Art.

Other Related Pages: Khao Nor Chu Chi

Jan Wilczur's Bird Art

Changes in bird communities following conversion of lowland forest to oil palm and rubber plantations in southern Thailand by Sirirak Aratrakorn, Somying Thunhikorn and Paul F. Donald


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More information on Gurney's Pitta:More information on Gurney's Pitta:More information on

BirdLife International, Species factsheet: Pitta gurneyi

Red Data Book, Threatened Birds of Asia; Gurney's Pitta

More photos of Gurney's Pitta:

Oriental Bird Images: Gurney's Pitta newsletter -
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