Vying for the title of the most beautiful family of birds are the stunning Pittas.
This diverse family of passerine birds is found in Asia, Australasia and Africa and is comprised of around 40 species. All of these species share a similar general appearance and behavior. The Pitta bird family is also known as the “jewel-thrushes” due to their stunningly bright and beautiful plumage. They are very popular with birdwatchers due to their colourful plumage and the fact that they are rare, shy and thus difficult to find.
They are medium-sized by passerine standards, ranging from 15 to 25 cm (5.9–9.8 in) in length. They have stout bodies and longish legs and feet, short tails and a stout, slightly decurved bill. Most species have very brightly colored plumage, usually in shades of blue, green, and yellow.
Most Pitta species are tropical where they can be found in forests, scrub and mangroves. They are solitary birds and usually forage on the ground amongst lots of ground cover. Their diet mostly consists of worms, snails, insects and similar invertebrate prey, as well as small vertebrates.
The majority of the species are non-migratory, but there are four species of Pittas (African, Indian, Blue-winged and Fairy) that are fully migratory and several more that are partially so.
Sadly, many species in the family are threatened by habitat loss due to rapid deforestation, but they are also targeted by the cage-bird trade. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed four species of Pittas (Gurney’s, Siau, Sangihe, Superb) as endangered, and a further nine as vulnerable. The greatest diversity of this family is found in South-east Asia, but two species are regular in Australia (Noisy and Rainbow). Two species are found only in Africa (the African and Green-breasted Pittas).