Graceful pitta (Pitta venusta)

Also known as: black-crowned pitta
Synonyms: Pitta granatina
GenusPitta (1)
SizeLength: 18 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

Despite its bright crimson belly, the graceful pitta blends in with the forest floor and is seldom seen. It is a stumpy-looking bird, with dark brown upperparts tinged with purple, and a long, brown tail. The head is blackish-maroon and a distinct azure-blue streak runs from above its dark brown eye to the nape. Adult graceful pittas have black bills, while the bill of juveniles is tipped with red. Juveniles can also be distinguished from adults by their plain dark brown plumage (2).

Occurs in the highlands of Sumatra, where it has been chiefly found in the Barisan Mountain range (2) (3).

The graceful pitta inhabits damp, dark rainforest, favouring ravines under dense cover. It has been recorded from 400 to 1,400 metres above sea level (2)

Graceful pittas skulk about the forest floor, turning over leaves and moss to reveal insects, small snails and beetles, worms and seeds, on which they feed (2) (3). Only a single nest of the graceful pitta has been discovered; it was a domed structure made of dead leaves, bamboo leaves, fine roots, decayed fibres and moss. It was situated 60 centimetres off the ground, amongst the leaves of an orchid growing on the trunk of a fallen tree. The graceful pitta lays clutches of two to three creamy eggs, freckled with dark spots (2).

The destruction, degradation and fragmentation of Sumatran forests threaten the survival of the graceful pitta. Almost all the lowland forest within the pitta’s range has already been destroyed, and an estimated 40 percent of montane forest has been lost, primarily due to shifting cultivation (2). Widespread hunting with air rifles and ground snares poses an additional threat (3), and the rapidly growing human population of Sumatra is likely to mean that without sufficient protection, the graceful pitta will become increasingly vulnerable to extinction (2).

The graceful pitta has been legally protected since 1931, and populations occur within Kerinci-Seblat and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Parks (2), although the degree of protection these measures afford is dubious. Effective management and enforcement of protected areas is vital for the conservation of this vulnerable bird, along with further field research to provide a basis for a much-needed conservation strategy (2).

For further information on the graceful pitta see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2003) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol.8: Broadbills to Tapaculos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.