Eggcellent news! ‘Pitta’ patter of tiny chick feet at manor is a first for UK

Gavin Harrison, Senior Aviculturist, Waddesdon Manor Aviaries, with rare Java Banded Pitta
Gavin Harrison, Senior Aviculturist, Waddesdon Manor Aviaries, with rare Java Banded Pitta

Staff at Waddesdon Manor are celebrating after a rare bird in their avaries successfully produced a baby chick for the first time in the UK.

The Javan banded pitta, generally found in Indonesia, is a brightly coloured bird often referred to as ‘a jewel of the forest’.

The pittas first came to the aviaries in 2007, the same year that they were bred in a zoo in Germany.

The pair have been producing fertile eggs at the aviary for four years, however this is the first time a chick has managed to survive its most vulnerable period – the first week after birth.

Gavin Harrison, a senior aviculturist at Waddesdon Manor aviaries, said: “We have undertaken a process of removing, hatching and incubating the pitta’s eggs and this is the first time we have achieved success.

“Each year we have changed something to improve our chances.

“This time we have changed the bird’s diet and increased the time between feeds so we think that is what made the difference.

“It is quite a thrill for us to know that we have a new addition to the pitta family.”

The banded pitta is a species that is increasingly at risk of becoming endangered, particularly after the species was split into three different groups: Javan, Malayan and Bornean.

Gavin said: “There are two reasons why the Javan banded pitta is at risk.

“Firstly in Indonesia they are often caught and used as part of the illegal bird trade.

“Secondly the pittas are suffering from a loss of their habitat as more and more forests are being destroyed.”

The Javan banded pitta is best suited to certain living conditions and also has set dietary requirements so the birds require a lot of supervision to ensure they are progressing OK.

Gavin said: “In terms of living conditions, the pittas prefer warm and humid environments so we are housing them in an area that is temperature controlled between 20C and 30C.

“As regards diet, we are feeding the bird on earthworms, fruit, especially papaya and also pinkie mice, which are baby mice without fur which are commonly used as food for reptiles.”