Pittas in love and leeches on the menu!

Trip Report: Irshad Mobarak
Location: Langkawi Island, Kedah, Malaysia.
Date: 20.4.2007

The rains are here and the Blue-winged Pittas love it. The Blue-winged Pittas in my opinion is our most beautiful bird. The Japanese name for this bird, translated means 8 colored bird and only the laws of nature can put such a combination of colors together and what an amazing job it has come up with.

The Malay name is by comparison very unfaltering but nevertheless describes it feeding behavior accurately. The Malay name is Burung Pacat when translated simply means the Leech-eating Bird.

So why does this bird loves the rain, well for most of the dry season the leeches are in hibernating mode the rainy weather activates these little detestable creatures. For unlike most other birds on Langkawi that do their nesting during the dry season, the dry weather triggers the flowering and subsequently the fruiting season, therefore most nectar feeders and fruit eaters nest during the dry season.

As for the Blue-winged Pittas, July is the season of love and courtship because when babies arrive there are loads of juicy leeches for the family to enjoy. For the twitches among us June till October are the best times on the island to observe these usually shy birds.

Just in case I left you with the impression that leeches are totally useless creatures, allow me for a moment to advocate for them. These little considerate creatures releases a chemical called hiridin which is an anti-coagulant that is used in modern medicine especially for venomous and heart disease, infertility, micro surgery and yes even in cosmetic surgery.