Our expedition to see Schneider’s Pitta was an adventure of a lifetime. The bird, once considered extinct, can only be seen in Kerinchi National Park on Sumatra Island, Indonesia. Mount Kerinchi, an active volcano, loomed in the distance, spewing sulphur fumes into the air as we made our way down the winding road towards our destination.
We were a group of four wildlife photographers, and our guide, Dwi Wahyudi, was the only person who could take us to see the elusive bird from the comfort of a hide. We had planned our trip well in advance, and contacting Dwi on Facebook was the first step in making it happen. Our point of entry into Sumatra was Padang International Airport (PDG), where a courteous driver was waiting to take us on a nine-hour drive to Kerinchi.
Kerinchi National Park, Sumatra.
Despite the long journey, the scenery was breathtaking, and we arrived in Kerinchi around 4 p.m. Dwi had his own homestay, and that’s where we stayed for the next two days. The next morning, we set out early, armed with raincoats and cameras, to see the Schneider’s Pitta. Dwi’s hide was only a kilometre from his homestay and could comfortably accommodate six to eight people at once.
As we settled in, we saw a male bird scurrying into the open area in front of the hide, looking for mealworms. A few seconds later, a female bird followed him. We were in awe as we watched and photographed the rare bird in its natural habitat. Over the next two days, we had several opportunities to see and photograph the Schneider’s Pitta, and we were grateful to Dwi and his family for caring for such a rare, thought-to-be-extinct species.
The Graceful Pitta, another endemic bird, could also be seen on a trip to Sumatra, and Dwi included a two-hour road trip to see the bird in his birding itinerary. The trip was seamless, and we were able to enjoy the stunning scenery and the beauty of the bird in its natural habitat.
In conclusion, our expedition to see the Schneider’s Pitta was an unforgettable experience. From the long journey to the comfort of the hide and the beauty of the bird, it was a trip of a lifetime. We are grateful to Dwi and his family for their dedication to preserving the bird and for making our trip a success.
My Quest for Rare Pittas
I became fascinated with the Pitta bird family when I started bird photography in 2013. My initial encounter was with an Indian Pitta in Sri Lanka. Since then, I have travelled to remote locations like Mindanao in the Philippines, Solomon Island, and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea to search for rare Pittas. I have photographed almost half of the species, but there is still a long way to go!
Pittas are an array of colourful and charismatic species found across Asia, Africa, and Australasia. Among them, the Scheinshder’s Pitta (Pitta scheinshderi) of Sumatra stands out as an elusive and captivating creature. With its vibrant plumage and secretive nature, this avian gem has captured the imagination of bird enthusiasts and conservationists alike.
Distribution and Habitat: The Scheinshder’s Pitta is a bird species found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. It lives in the dense lowland rainforests and peat swamp forests in the southwestern part of the island. Because of the specific type of forest it inhabits and its geographical isolation, this bird is rare and can only be found in a limited area.
Diet and Behavior: The Scheinshder’s Pitta mostly feeds on insects, particularly beetles, ants, and caterpillars. It searches for prey by hopping and probing the leaf litter on the forest floor and occasionally takes short flights to catch it. This bird has a unique call made up of a sequence of pleasant whistles and trills that helps it communicate with its mate and mark its territory.
The Scheinshder’s Pitta Story: The Scheinshder’s Pitta has an intriguing history of discovery and mystery. In 1997, ornithologist Dr. Robert Scheinshder first described this species, but it remained largely unknown to the scientific community until it was rediscovered in 2009. Due to its elusive nature and the difficulties of studying birds in dense forest habitats, researching and monitoring this species has proven to be a challenging task.
Elusiveness and Rarity: The Scheinshder’s Pitta is an incredibly rare and endangered bird, with less than 50 individuals thought to exist in the wild. Its limited distribution and small population make it highly vulnerable to habitat loss, which is primarily caused by deforestation for agriculture and logging. Conservation efforts are currently underway to protect its remaining habitat and increase awareness about this remarkable bird.