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Whiskered Pitta Pitta kochi

This species is thought to be declining rapidly, owing to very rapid reductions in the area of its lowland and montane forest habitats, locally compounded by hunting, thus qualifying it as Vulnerable.

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

21 cm. Brightly-coloured, ground-dwelling passerine. Brown fore-crown, rusty-orange rear crown and nape. Dark olive-brown ear-coverts bordered below by broad, pinkish malar stripe and darker sub-malar area. Blue breast, rest of underparts scarlet. Dull olive-green upperparts except for blue rump and wing patch. Long, greyish-blue legs. Stout, dark bill. Juvenile is brown, spotted paler on breast. Shows pale malar area. Similar spp. Red-bellied Pitta P. erythrogaster is smaller and lacks pale malar. Voice Pigeon-like series of five to nine short woo notes which descend in pitch and accelerate. Hints Best located by call.

Distribution and population
Pitta kochi is endemic to Luzon in the Philippines, where it is restricted to the mountains of the Cordillera Central and the Sierra Madre in the north, and the Bicol region in the south (BirdLife International 2001). Formerly judged to be rare and local overall, there have been a number of records, from at least 13 widely spread localities, since 1990. Although recent survey evidence shows it to be locally common, it is presumably declining overall, and populations in Bicol are likely to be highly threatened (D. Allen in litt. 2007, 2012).

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 mature individuals. This equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Forest habitat has been extensively cleared in much of the Sierra Madre and Cordillera Central mountain ranges of Luzon. Together with hunting pressure this is suspected to be causing rapid declines in the species's population.

It chiefly inhabits montane forest, tolerating degraded and selectively logged areas. Records span a wide altitudinal range (360-2,200 m), with highest densities found at 900-1,400 m. It appears to prefer closed-canopy, primary montane, oak dominated forest, frequently on steep slopes. Its movements are poorly understood. Records from south Luzon (which may refer to wintering individuals) suggest that there is some intra-island migration.

The chief threat is habitat loss, compounded locally by hunting with snares. In 1988, an estimated 24% of Luzon remained forested. In the Cordillera Central, montane forest is threatened by logging, agricultural encroachment and mining (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). Large areas in the southern Cordillera Central have been converted for cultivation, and the species is likely to be rare or locally extinct there; however, the northern Cordillera Central is sparsely populated, and there are large areas of undisturbed forest. Surveys indicate that the species is not presently threatened by forest conversion in Apayao province (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). Forest cover in the Sierra Madre has declined by 83% since the 1930s; however, illegal logging activities in the Sierra Madre target lowland tree species, rather than montane species, and there is reportedly no agricultural encroachment above 800 m in the northern Sierra Madre, suggesting that the species could be secure there (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). Major road-building plans pose a further threat. Several key sites are suffering serious habitat degradation (e.g. Mt Diapalayag, Maria Aurora Memorial Natural Park and Mt Isarog). Snaring is a problem in some areas, such as Mt Polis (D. Allen in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. It occurs in a number of protected areas, including the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, Mt Isarog and Mt Pulog National Parks and the Maria Aurora Memorial Natural Park. All forest above 1,100 m elevation is protected by law, and there are additional strict protection zones for montane forest in Isabela province and most of Cagayan province, although law enforcement is often weak (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Research its ecological requirements (to identify its optimal habitat), conduct comparative studies of breeding regimes in the Cordillera Central and Sierra Madre, and investigate its migratory habits/dispersive capability, to facilitate conservation planning. Extend the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park to incorporate Mt Los Dos Cuernos. Following consultation with indigenous people, formally protect further key sites (e.g. Mts Cagua, Cetaceo, Polis and the Angat watershed).

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).

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

Allen, D., van Weerd, M.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Pitta kochi. Downloaded from on 23/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/07/2014.

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.

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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 - Whiskered pitta (Pitta kochi) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Pittidae (Pittas)
Species name author Br
Population size 10000-19999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 35,700 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species