email a friend
printable version
Azure-breasted Pitta Pitta steerii
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This pitta qualifies as Vulnerable because it has a small, severely fragmented population, which is likely to be rapidly declining owing to the loss of its lowland forest habitat.

Taxonomic source(s)
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

18-19.5 cm. Brightly coloured, ground-dwelling passerine. Black head, white throat. Green upperparts except for shining azure-blue rump and wing-patch. Pale blue underparts, black patch on centre of belly merges into vivid scarlet lower belly and undertail-coverts. Greyish-flesh legs. Stout, dark bill. Juvenile duller, especially grey-washed underparts. Similar spp. Hooded Pitta P. sordida is smaller, duller, has black throat and green underparts. Voice Loud series of 4-5 explosive short whistles whep-whep-whep-whep repeated every few seconds. Hints Shy. Best located by call. Frequently calls after rain, usually from an elevated perch.

Distribution and population
Pitta steerii is endemic to the Philippines, where it is known from Samar, Leyte, Bohol and Mindanao (BirdLife International 2001). Historical evidence indicates it was always rather local and uncommon but since 1980 it is has been recorded at just three sites, Rajah Sikatuna National Park on Bohol, where it is locally common, Bislig, and a location on the Zamboanga peninsula on Mindanao. Its current status on Samar and Leyte, where it was last recorded in 1969 and 1964 respectively, is not known.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Forest clearance has been extensive within its range, beginning many decades ago. Its status on Samar and Leyte is unknown. Rajah Sikatuna National Park appears to be benefiting from effective management and logging has declined, but other known populations lie outside protected areas and forest clearance continues. Hence, overall the species is suspected to be declining rapidly.

It inhabits lowland forest on limestone karst or forest liberally scattered with limestone boulders, up to 750 m. It has also been encountered in stunted and secondary formations in close association with limestone. Recent surveys found it in association with stunted, highly endemic iron-wood (Xanthostemon verdugonianus) forests on the eastern slopes of Mount Hilong Hilong in Mindanao and in "bonsai" or pygmy forests in the lowlands of Mount Hamiguitan (J. Ibanez in litt. 2007). The ecological significance of its preference for limestone is not clear.

Its whole range has suffered extensive lowland deforestation. In 1988, forest cover had been reduced to an estimated 29% on Mindanao, most of it above 1,000 m. Most remaining lowland forest is now leased to logging concessions or mining applications. Estimates from 1989 were that as little as 433 km2 of old-growth dipterocarp forest remained on Samar and Leyte. Just 4% forest cover is thought to remain on Bohol. Local pressures at Rajah Sikatuna National Park include limited illegal tree-cutting, agricultural expansion and soil erosion. Forest at Bislig is being cleared under concession and re-planted with exotic trees for paper production. Mining for chromite and nickel represents the most significant threat to many remaining forest areas (J. Ibanez in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in one protected area, Rajah Sikatuna National Park on Bohol, and recent management efforts appear to be minimising the pressures on this park. It also occurs in the Mt Hilong-hilong Watershed Reserve, although this area is threatened by a pending application to allow mineral extraction in the surrounding area. No protected area is currently proposed for Bislig but work is on-going between the Philippine Eagle Foundation and the City Government of Bislig for the declaration of a 7,000-ha Philippine Eagle nesting site as "critical habitat" under a new Philippine Wildlife Law, and similarly at Mt Hamiguitan. Azure-breasted Pitta has been reported from both sites. Conservation Actions Proposed
Identify and survey remaining lowland forest tracts on Samar, Leyte and in poorly-known areas of Mindanao, to establish its current distribution and population status. Research its ecological requirements, particularly its association with limestone and tolerance of degradation. Formally designate Rajah Sikatuna National Park as a strict protected area and continue management activities there to minimise habitat disturbance. Propose additional key sites (following surveys) for establishment as protected areas. Ensure that existing protected areas are adequately protected and enforced.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Lowen, J., Peet, N., Taylor, J.

Ibanez, J.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Pitta steerii. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Azure-breasted pitta (Pitta steerii) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Pittidae (Pittas)
Species name author (Sharpe, 1876)
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 118,000 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species