Pitta angolensis (African pitta, Angola pitta) 

Angolapitta [Afrikaans]; Angola-pitta [Dutch]; Brève de l'Angola [French]; Angolapitta [German]; Pita de Angola [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Pittidae

Pitta angolensis (African pitta, Angola pitta)   

African pitta. [photo Johannes Ferdinand ©]

 

The African pitta is an intra-African breeding migrant, arriving in southern and south-central Africa to breed around November-December, then departing around March-April for its non-breeding grounds in equatorial Africa. In southern Africa it is scarce and localized, mainly occupying evergreen forest or dense thickets, often on the banks of rivers or streams, foraging for invertebrates in the leaf litter. Its nest is a dome-shaped structure made of twigs, leaves and plant debris, usually placed in the uppermost branches of a tree sapling. It lays 2-4 eggs, which hatch into chicks with black skin and orange bills. Strangely enough, the chicks do not beg for food, they just patiently wait with their mouths open until they are given something.

Distribution and habitat

It has two major migrating populations: one in coastal West Africa and the other in the area from the DRC to Mozambique, extending marginally into southern Africa. Here it is scarce and localized, with scattered populations in northern Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe, with a few of vagrants recorded in Limpopo Province, KwaZulu-Natal and even the Eastern Cape. It usually occupies evergreen forest or dense thickets, often on the banks of rivers or streams.

Distribution of African pitta in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common).

Movements and migrations

It is an intra-African breeding migrant, arriving in southern and south-central Africa to breed around November-December, then departing around March-April for its non-breeding grounds in the DRC, Uganda and Kenya.

Food 

It African pitta exclusively eats invertebrates, usually foraging in leaf litter, searching for prey. Once it spots a prey item it stabs it with its bill, killing it instantly. Its diet has not been studied very well, however it is thought to eat the following prey items:

Breeding

  • It builds its own nest, which is a dome-shaped structure made of sticks, leaves and plant detritus, about 25-35 cm wide and 18-20 cm high, with a small entrance hole on the side. It is normally placed in the upper branches of a tree sapling, which in Zimbabwe is often a thorny species, such as Ziziphus mucronata (Buffalo-thorn), Ximenia (sourplum) or Acacia ataxacantha (Flame thorn).
  • Egg-laying season is from November-January.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which hatch into chicks with black skin and orange bills. Strangely enough, the chicks do not beg for food, they just patiently wait with their mouths open until they are given something.

Threats

Not threatened.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 
 

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