A few months ago, my husband was winding his way through the ginger patch – not an easy task, since it is about 40 x 60 metres of tangled torch ginger canes, and requires a certain amount of agility to wind your way through, looking for flowers. It is also a bit dim in there, since the ginger plants are about 5 metres tall and meet overhead. The gingers love it, but I don’t think my husband, who does this particular bit of picking is quite so overjoyed. However, he did notice that one of our dogs was getting a bit excited, and he struggled over to see if she had found a snake, which is quite likely. However, what she found was a Rainbow Pitta nest, so hastily dragging her away by the collar, he went to get the camera. The Pitta, not surprisingly had evacuated, as one would, with a big black snout poking enquiringly in your tidy home, but the dog hadn’t had time to steal the eggs.
Rainbow Pittas are a fairly shy inhabitant of our local rainforest pockets, and we have several living in our flower areas, which are rather jungle-ish, and a good habitat for many rainforest birds. We have quite a few who are permanent residents, and some who only come in to our water and wet areas when the Darwin Dry season is at its driest in August and September, or even up to Christmas, some years.
The nest had been carefully constructed out of dry leaves, twigs and a bit of mud, and was quite high off the ground – maybe 40 cm.
The entrance was on the side, and the roof was covered over quite solidly with mud and leaves, so as to be water proof. There were three creamy speckled eggs inside, and it was quite a large space. Pittas are smallish birds, about 18 cm tall, stumpy looking since they have a short tail, and largely ground living. You rarely see them, since they are basically black, with coloured wing and back feathers, but you can here them calling to their mates, and to other birds.
We kept away from the area for a few weeks, and when we visited again later, the eggs had hatched and the chicks were gone, so fortunately our dogs had not gone back to raid the nest.
We are fairly lucky to live next to a large rainforest pocket, which means we have a wide range of habitats available in the near vicinity for birds, and we have a lot of them visiting our farm, since there is always water available there, as well as fruit, insects, grass etc. We keep big dishes under some dripping taps, to ensure that the local wildlife doesn’t go thirsty. I might add, if we don’t, the wallabies and bandicoots, as well as the cockatoos, chew the irrigation to pieces, to get the water, so it is a bit of self defence, as well as kind heartedness.