The Green-breasted Pitta Pittareichenowi though not globally threatened, is a very shy species, and is not easily seen by any birder to Uganda and Africa as per say it is rarely seen and a very difficult bird to find despite its extremely large range and thus does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerability under the range size criterion as evidenced but its conservation status in the central African countries with the best sightings in Uganda at Kibale Forest National Park with the population suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. It lives, well camouflaged, in the lowland tropical forests lying between 1100 to 1400 meters above sea level and photographing one of these little-guys is a bird lovers dream.
Almost every African birder or bird watching guide looks at the painting of the African Pitta in their field guide book and dreams about seeing one but it is not a bird for all. The colors are unbelievable –luminous turquoise and unimaginably bright red mixed with relatively subtle yellow, green and black. The dazzling appearance of this bird, combined with its legendary elusiveness has turned this species key to many people on bird watching safaris to Africa and Uganda in particular.
The best way to have a great day in search of this bird for the case of Uganda where higher chances of seeing it in Africa lie is in Kibale Forest National Park in the western part of the country where you can have an early morning breakfast,to my best experience and to have greater chances of seeing it, always spend a night as close as possible to the park since there are lots of luxury to mid-range accommodation facilities, for our case we were at the primate lodge just in the interior of the forest, to many tours I have led there we always start at about 6:00am but this time round we set off into the forest with a group of 9 including me, Gerald and Derik as the key spotting guides for this morning which a major focus of this shy Green-breasted Pitta and later we would embark on the chimp trek. We registered and set of at around 7:45, it had been spotted the previous day around the ngogwe trail and we drove to the starting point for about 15 minutes, we entered this beautiful jungle and we left the rest of the group behind, the 3 guides started the search as the Pitta is very territorial in nature and can always be heard than seen.
In spaces of about 8 meters from each other we started exploring the territory and for the first one and a half hour there was no luck, we traced our way back to the group and told them the progress as we switched to another territory, we were joined by another keen birder among the clients who was Nick, we started the hunt and finally I heard it call, we all dashed towards it as Gerald went for the rest of the group to join us as we were closing in on it. As soon as the group arrived, it called again ‘brrrtt’ ……….. ‘brrrtt’ as we drew closer, I saw a flash of Red and definitely that was the rear part of it, I put may laser pointer around the area but no one could get their eyes on the bird, after about 4 minutes, it called again, at the middle of the search we got confused as it was a dueting pair, I saw one dive again and still none saw it except me, we stood for about 3 minutes and it again goes ‘brrrtt’, we moved faster only to see it perched on a branch, it was patient for the whole group to have the views and finally joined by the counterpart and off they went and it became a proof that both the African Pitta species are located by the males’ calls during their comical displays to attract females which indeed did happen!
That was the end of the show, everybody was happy and could not believe after the great views of this shy creature, off we set of for the chimp trek a few minutes of the hike, we heard their loud noise and moved faster towards them, to none birders, this is the biggest highlight of Kibale forest National Park and the major focus of any primate safari to Uganda are the chimps here as tourists are almost guaranteed to view them. We got closer and had a troupe of about 14 members some high and playing in the fig but with a great chance of one relaxing on the floor of the forest, we spent about one hour here and as we were meeting with these unpredictable primates, we had a few chances and some of us landed our eyes on the Black Billed Turaco, Honey Guide Greenbul, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Western Black-headed Oriole, Narina Trogon, Rufous Fly-Catcher Thrus with other primates including the Grey Cheeked Mangabey, Red tailed monkey and the Black and White Colobus.
We headed back to the car with great smiles and drove back to the starting point at Kanyanchu and had our lunch at primate lodge as we awaited the visit to Bigodi wetland, it was a great and a morning of luck, as this was among the big fish and on the birding wish-list for my clients!