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Overview

Comprehensive Description

The Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) is a a small brightly colored pitta that breeds in Japan, South Korea, mainland China, and Taiwan and winters mainly on the island of Borneo. Migrants have been recorded from North Korea, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. The total population of Fairy Pittas is small and declining, mainly as a result of deforestation in its breeding range. (BirdLife International 2000; Erritzoe 2003)

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Distribution

Range Description

Pitta nympha breeds in north-east Asia in Japan, South Korea, mainland China and Taiwan (China), and winters mainly on the island of Borneo, in east Malaysia, Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia (BirdLife International 2001). It has been recorded on passage in northern Taiwan (W. Hsu in litt. 2003), North Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong (China) and, most recently, Thailand (BCST Bird Record Committee 2009). It appears to be localised in its breeding range, but occurs at relatively high densities at some localities. Preliminary estimates based on playback surveys by the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute suggest that up to 2,000 individuals may breed in Taiwan (Fang Woei-Horng in litt. 2007). Survey effort in Jiangxi (Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden 2003), Guangxi (Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden 2002a,b) and Hainan (Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden 2001) Provinces, China, has identified a number of new locations. Overall, its population is unlikely to be more than a few thousand individuals and it is thought to be declining, although the Japanese Ministry of Environment report in 2004 shows that it was recorded in a greater number of survey squares during 1997-2002 distributional surveys of Japanese animals compared with their 1974-1978 figures (Y. Kominami in litt. 2007). The total population is likely to fall between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals (Wild at Heart Legal Defence Association undated).

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Range

S Japan to Korea and se China; winters to SE Asia and Borneo.

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The Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) breeds in Japan (where it is rare), in South Korea (where it is rare and local), in mainland China (where it was formerly locally common in southern China), and in Taiwan (where it is uncommon to rare, though formerly more common; hundreds of migrating individuals are still seen each year). It winters mainly on the island of Borneo, where it is present from October to March. Migrants have been recorded from North Korea, Vietnam, and Hong Kong, but migration routes are poorly understood. Birds leave Japan in August and September and return in mid-May. Some birds from Japan and South Korea may travel only as far as southern China, but observations of large numbers of individuals in Taiwan in the spring during the 1980s suggest the existence of non-breeding areas farther south. Some birds may be year-round residents in southeastern China. (BirdLife International 2000; Erritzoe 2003 and references therein) For detailed and up-to-date information on the distribution of the Fairy Pitta see BirdLife International's Red Data Book: threatened birds of Asia online.

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Physical Description

Morphology

The brightly colored Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) has emerald-green back, shoulders, and secondaries; cobalt-blue rump, upper tail coverts, tip of tail, and lesser wing coverts; a large red patch on creamy yellow underparts; a broad black stripe through the eye; a yellow supercilium ("eyebrow"); and a brown crown (Massey et al. 1982).

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Size

The Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) is about 18 cm in length (Massey et al. 1982) and 67 to 155 grams (Erritzoe 2003 and references therein).

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It breeds in subtropical forest, where its localised distribution suggests that it has specialised habitat requirements. Peak breeding season in Taiwan is in May and June. In Japan, it breeds primarily in broadleaved evergreen forest near the coast (mostly below 500 m), although breeding has been recorded from plantations and the species appears to be adaptable to modified forest habitats. In South Korea, it breeds in dense moist forest and broadleaved forest near the coast, up to 1,200 m. The nest is usually built in crevices or foliage 1-5 m above the ground. It forages amongst leaf-litter for invertebrates, also occasionally taking snakes, lizards and small rodents (Wild at Heart Legal Defence Association undated).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The Fairy Pitta breeds in subtropical forest. Its patchy distribution suggests that it has specialized habitat requirements. In Japan it breeds mainly in moist broadleaved evergreen forests with thick undergrowth, especially near streams, near the coast (mostly below 500 meters elevation). In South Korea, it also breeds in dense moist forests near the coast, but is found up to around 1200 meters. In Taiwan, it is found in sparsely populated wooded areas and bamboo groves up to around 1300 meters. In its non-breeding range, it occurs in mixed dipterocarp forest and primary forest up to around 1100 meters. (BirdLife International 2000; Erritzoe 2003 and references therein)

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Trophic Strategy

The Fairy Pitta feeds on leaf-litter invertebrates. Reported food items include earthworms, beetles, ants, centipedes, snails, and small crabs, among other items (see below). In captivity, it has been observed using a stone as an "anvil" to crush snail shells. (BirdLife International 2000; Erritzoe 2003; Lin et al. 2007 and references therein).

Lin et al. (2007) studied the diet of Fairy Pitta nestlings in Taiwan by videotaping 8 broods from 2000 to 2002. Adults usually brought nestlings 1 to 3 items at each feeding visit and prey sizes was usually between 2 and 10 cm in length. The total number of feeding visits for a brood was estimated to be around 900 to 1000 based on a brood observed for the entire nestling period. Earthworms (of several species) were the most important food item for all broods and occurred in more than 73% of feeding visits (earthworms have been found to be a major component of the diets of a number of other pitta species, as well). However, the occurrence of earthworms decreased with nestling age in 1 brood that was observed during drought conditions, possibly due to a decline in earthworm abundances during this dry period. Lepidoptera (larvae, adults, and probably pupae) were the second most frequent identifiable food item. The remaining invertebrate taxa were only rarely recorded, but included slugs, snails, spiders, stoneflies (Plecoptera), centipedes (Scutigeromorpha and Scolopendromorpha), fly (Diptera) larvae, freshwater crabs, praying mantids (Mantodea), dragonflies (Odonata), whip scorpions (Thelyphonidae), beetle (Coleoptera) adults and larvae, and grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets (Orthoptera). Vertebrates accounted for just 4% of the nestlings' diet, but these prey included included frogs, lizards, small snakes, and a small shrew. (Lin et al. 2007 and references therein).

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

The reported breeding season of the Fairy Pitta runs from May to July in Japan and Taiwan and from May to June in Korea. The domed nest may be up to 45 cm wide and 40 cm high, with a side entrance. It is constructed mostly of twigs, with a few leaves, and lined with moss and finer materials. There is sometimes a platform of twigs in front of the entrance. The nest is placed between about 2 and 7.5 meters above the ground in the fork of a tree or in a rock cleft. The clutch consists of 4 to 6 creamy white eggs with fine purple-brown spots. Both parents feed the young. (Erritzoe 2003 and references therein).

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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Systematics and Taxonomy

The Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) forms a superspecies with the Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura), the Blue-winged Pitta (P. moluccensis), and the Mangrove Pitta (P. megarhyncha). Historically, these have often all been treated as a single species, but differences in morphology, plumage, and vocalizations have led to the recognition of these forms as distinct species. (Erritzoe 2003)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A2cd+3cd+4cd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Hsu, W., Kominami, Y. & Woei-Horng, F.

Justification
This beautiful pitta qualifies as Vulnerable because its population is suspected to be in rapid decline owing to deforestation in its breeding range, principally for agriculture and timber, locally compounded by trapping for the cagebird trade.

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The total population of Fairy Pittas is small and declining as a result of extensive lowland deforestation in its breeding range (mainly due to agriculture and timber harvesting, as well as uncontrolled burning). Historically, the Fairy Pitta was trapped extensively for the cagebird trade in Taiwan and hunting is a threat in China. Human disturbance is a problem in Taiwan and South Korea. The Fairy Pitta is legally protected in mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, North Korea, and South Korea. The total population is probably just a few thousand individuals, almost surely fewer than 10,000. (BirdLife International 2000; Erritzoe 2003 and references therein)

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Population

Population
BirdLife International (2001) estimated the total population to be not more than a few thousand or tens of thousands of individuals. This is precautionarily placed in the band 2,500-9,999 individuals, equating to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals. National population estimates include: c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration in China; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration in Taiwan; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration in Korea and c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration in Japan (Brazil 2009).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The key threat is extensive lowland deforestation in its breeding range, particularly for development and gravel extraction (Wild at Heart Legal Defence Association undated). In south-east China, most forest has been cleared or modified through conversion to agricultural land and logging for timber. Uncontrolled fires have further reduced remaining forest cover. The area of forest in Japan is gradually increasing, but mature forest is rare and most is regenerating secondary forest or plantations cut on a 15-30 year cycle. It was extensively trapped for the cage-bird trade in the past in Taiwan and hunting is a threat in China. Human disturbance is a problem in Taiwan, South Korea and particularly on its breeding grounds in Japan, where the species suffers disturbance from photographers (Yukihiro Kominami in litt. 2007). Huben-Hushan IBA in Yunlin County, Taiwan, supports the largest known breeding population of the species, but it is seriously threatened by the proposed Hushan Dam Project, which would flood 422 ha of key habitat. Despite opposition from conservation groups this project has not been stopped and disturbance at the construction site saw the number of breeding birds drop to 18 in 2007, from 32 the previous year (Fang Woei-Horng in litt. 2007).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It is legally protected in mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, North Korea and South Korea. It occurs in a number of protected areas across its range, notably Keoje Island Natural Monument, the main breeding site in South Korea. BirdLife International and the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan have successfully lobbied against gravel extraction at Huban-Hushan IBA in the past and are now campaigning against the proposed Hushan Dam Project at the same site.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey its breeding range to establish its population size, distribution and occurrence in protected areas. Research its ecology, including its habitat requirements, with the aim of developing appropriate forest management regimes in protected areas where it occurs. Protect remaining areas of forest where this and other threatened species occur and ensure they are suitably managed. Ensure adequate protection of forest in existing protected areas holding this species and prevent hunting and trapping within them. Continue to lobby against the proposed Hushan Dam project.

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Lin et al. (2007) studied the effectiveness of playbacks in censusing the Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) during the breeding season in Taiwan. They found that during the early breeding season, playbacks substantially increased the likelihood of detecting Fairy Pittas. The use of playbacks increased both the number of stations at which pittas were detected and the number of pittas detected per station. Playbacks improved the detectability of the Fairy Pitta at a station by 50%, 71%, and 29%, in early, mid-, and late May, respectively. The authors concluded that playbacks are a valuable censusing tool, but that it is important to census Fairy Pitta populations during the pre- to early nesting period. Although they found that a 5 minute playback at a station was sufficient and could be carried out at any time of day, they suggested that a visit in both the morning and afternoon might increase survey reliability and provide a better estimation of population density.

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Wikipedia

Fairy pitta

The fairy pitta (Pitta nympha) is a small passerine bird. It eats worms, spiders, insects, slugs, and snails. It is also known as the seven-coloured bird.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It breeds in north-east Asia in Japan, South Korea, mainland China and Taiwan, migrant in Thailand and winters mainly on the island of Borneo in east Malaysia, Brunei, and Kalimantan in Indonesia.

Taxonomy[edit]

The fairy pitta forms a superspecies with the Indian pitta (P. brachyura), mangrove pitta (P. megarhyncha) and blue-winged pitta (P. moluccensis).

Status and conservation[edit]

This bird is classified as vulnerable by BirdLife International, with an estimated population of between 2,500 and 10,000 individuals. Its population is inferred to be rapidly declining due to deforestation in its breeding range, principally for agriculture and timber, locally compounded by trapping for the cagebird trade.

References[edit]


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