Tag Archives: Fairy Pitta

Nesting Fairy Pittas in Taiwan

When I contacted Liao Mei-feng to arrange our birding trip to Taiwan to see the endemic birds in the Central Mountains, I was curious as to why she included a night stay at Yilan in the north. Apparently a pair of Fairy Pittas, Pitta nympha, have returned to a small park near Sanxing to nest. This was their third year back to the site. It seems that the recent two nestings had failed and the pair was determined to try for another brood. This was good news for us.


The foraging area is just next to the path. Their nest is somewhere up in the slopes in the dark thick forest on the right.

The drive from the airport on the expressway took us about two hours. We reached the site in the late afternoon and the birders there told us that the pittas came out twice this morning. They were there photographing the nesting of a pair of Taiwan Barbets. We waited till dusk without success and went to check in a local hotel at Yilan City.


The moss covered fence gave this shot some greenery.

We made the right decision to go back to the park early next morning to try again. Normally the place will be packed with photographers but this being a Monday there was only one other birder there. He had good news for us. One of the pittas came out to the path earlier.


Liao Mei-feng’s photo showing the pair of Fairy Pittas out foraging among the dead leaves.

We sat down and waited away from the site which cordoned off by the park staff. We did not have to wait too long. The first pitta flew in from the gully on the left and perched on the moss covered railings by the path. It was followed by its mate. Both then hopped down to the ground and started to forage for food. The Fairy Pittas look very similar to the Blue-winged Pitta. The Fairy Pitta is smaller. It has a whitish breast and belly and smaller blue wing patch. In flight the white wing patch is also much smaller. 


Looks like a Blue-winged Pitta if not for a whitish breast and belly.

We were elated. The last time I had a glimpse of this pitta flying out of its nest was in Dongzhai in June 2016 after waiting for hours. This is the first time I get to photograph them up close. It seems that they got use to the park visitors there and were not skittish in the presence of photographers as long as we do not make any sudden movements and get too near to them.

Fairy Pitta

In the days that follow, we learned from friends that they were brooding a third batch. We hope that this will be successful just like the ones at another site further south where photos of a pair with four chicks were attracting hordes of photographers. They also breed in SE China, Korea, South Japan and winters in Borneo.

A big thank you to Mei-feng for taking us there to see and photograph my last remaining pitta in the super group of Indian, Blue-winged and Mangrove Pittas.

Reference: Mu-Chi Hsiao and Cheng-Lin Li.  A field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan. Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. 



Birding China-Dongzhai National Nature Reserve

Day 5&6. 1 and 2 June 2016

Dongzhai National Nature Reserve.

Dongzhai NR Center where we stayed
Dongzhai National Nature Reserve Visitor Center where we stayed. Good birding around the center. Fairy Pittas were calling behind the center.

The Dongzhai National Nature Reserve is situated in the northern slopes of Dabie Mountains in the province of Henan. It is largely covered by evergreen hill forests. It took a long seven hours train ride from Tianing to reach Xin Yang Dong, the nearest town to the reserve.

Ready to set out for the Revee's Pheasant from Dongzhai NR Center
Setting off on the first morning from the Dongzhai NNR Center with great expectations.

The reserve is the home of the Reeves’s Pheasant, another of the many beautiful pheasants in China. It is endemic to China. Found only around the central and eastern mountains of China, they have been introduced to Europe for gaming.

Reeve's Pheasant Male
Reeves’s Pheasant Male. It’s long silver tail is partially hidden but its zorro face mask is unmistakable.

We got our target bird the Reeves’s Pheasant very early on the first morning. They were not very skittish but preferred to stay behind the undergrowth as much as possible. In all we saw ten pheasants in one morning of birding. This has to be the most satisfying pheasant hunt for us.

Revee's Pheasant female
The female is less colorful. We found this female perched quietly on the branch for almost 15 minutes. Later we realized that it was guarding two chicks nearby.
Fairy Pitta nest
The Reserve is also the breeding ground of the Fairy Pitta. This nest was on a slope among the vegetation about 70 meters away almost impossible to find..


One of the parent bird sat on the eggs for most of the day and only flew out only in the late afternoon. Wish we had a better and longer view of this pitta.


We had a surprised visit from Cindy Zheng during our stay at the Reserve. She was spending the day studying the captive breeding of the Crested Ibis at the reserve with the Director of the Reserve Mr.Zhu ( extreme right). She was in Singapore to participate in 6th Asian Bird Fair last October with the Jingshan County Birdwatching Association. They will be hosting the 7th Asian Bird Fair this November in Jingshan County. She heard from Menxiu Tong (in a stylist grey pullover), that he was leading a group of  Singapore birders to Donghzai and decided to drop by to say hello. It was so nice of her to come by and great to catch up again here of all the places. ( Photo: Alfred Chia)


My first encounter with a Lunar Moth at the center. Such a beauty!

Other birds outside the Donhzhai Reserve include the Collared Finchbill, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Vinous-breasted Parrotbill and the White-cheeked Starling. The Swinhoe’s Minivet is very similar to the Ashy Minivet that we are familiar with. But it has a grey crown and rufous wash underside. It may turn up in northern Malaysia one day.


On the way to the train station, we took a drive along the country roads to check out the birdlife around the rice fields. The Red-billed Starling is a very common here. This starling was just added to our checklist based on a sighting at the Tampines Canal last year. The Collared Crow is locally common but near-threatened. So it was great to tick it off as we did not see it anywhere else during the trip. The Crested Kingfisher was a bonus for all of us as we did not know that we can find it here. Many birders to Thailand had to spend hours waiting for this Kingfisher at Mae Wong National Park.


The Crested Ibis was thought to be extinct but thanks to captive and reintroduction program their numbers are now back in the low hundreds. This individual was foraging in its favorite habitat but we came across a nesting pair at the reserve the day before.

Next: Poyang Lake.